Traveling abroad on a budget

By Laura Cahill

Do you yearn to travel to Europe but don’t have the money to do so? Then, the winter Arts Abroad trip may be the perfect choice for you.

The trip is a little known secret for students who want to travel abroad but may not have the time or the funds to go for an extended period of time. Led by Dr. Jerry Rife and Dr. Patrick Chmel, 35 students went on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity trip to Barcelona, Spain and London, England, during winter break.

Arts Abroad can be taken as a music or theater class and is accredited the same as a regular course. It’s 12 days long and continues once the spring semester begins. As a part of the course, the students are required to write five two-to-three page papers on the theatrical and musical performances seen while abroad.

This short visit to Europe was a spectacular way to learn about different cultures. It included tours of the cities visited and provided an educational experience while incorporating free time for students to venture out and personally explore. Visiting famous landmarks, tasting local cuisine and attending theater and symphonies allowed me to be  thoroughly immersed in different cultures and appreciate how diverse other countries truly are.

In Barcelona, we visited the Sagrada Familia, which is a massive cathedral that has been in the process of being built since 1882. There are many statues depicting the life of Jesus, from birth until death. The structure can be seen from all over Barcelona, since it towers over the city.

While in Spain, we went to Montserrat, a monastery high in the mountains outside of Barcelona. The views were breathtaking and the monastery was incredibly built.

In London we visited Buckingham Palace and were able to witness the change of guard. The Palace is larger than I anticipated and seeing something so unique to London was an incomparable experience. The change of guard takes place every other day and a whole ceremony commences including horses and a band. While there, I also visited other famous landmarks, such as Westminster Abbey, where the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will take place in April. We also saw the British Library, which is home to some of the oldest works of literature in the world. Visiting places that I had only seen in movies or photos was wonderful. I was even able to make a quick trip to Kings Cross to visit Platform 9 ¾ of Harry Potter fame.

Another large benefit inherent in traveling to European countries is the plethora of cultural foods they offer. The food in Barcelona was delicious. Many restaurants serve “tapas,” which are small portions of many different appetizers. My personal favorite was a Spanish omelet, composed of egg and potatoes. Another popular choice was “patatas bravas,” which is similar to french fries and served with a spicy tomato sauce. In London, local pubs served meat pies and fish and chips. I firmly believe that a major way to experience the culture of another country is to eat its food.

While we were abroad, we saw two plays and three orchestras. Both plays were comedies and equally hysterical in different ways. A Flea in Her Ear is a slapstick comedy that begins with a lie while hilarious chains of events ensue. Becky Shaw is a dark comedy that touches on the lives of a family and the mess that occurs when the main character sets up a blind date for her adoptive brother.

In Barcelona, we saw the famous Concertgebouw Orchestra with soloist Joshua Bell, one of the world’s best violin players. In London, we listened to the London Symphony Orchestra play the musical piece “Don Quixote” by Richard Strauss. We also enjoyed the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which showcased “Symphony 6” by Mahler.

Every place that we visited was a fountain of fascinating information. I loved learning as much as I did and going out to experience the nightlife of each city. It was an incredible amount of fun.

Arts Abroad costs about $2,400.

The gates to Buckingham Palace in England display the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.
Senior Laura Cahill stands on top of the Tower Bridge in England, offering a beautiful view of the river Thames.
The Big Ben clock is a popular symbol of the UK.
The National Gallery in London contains Western European art from the 13th to 19th centuries.
This band features people in the traditional and well-known Buckingham Palace guard outfits.
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