By Sydney Crago, Student Intern for BW Study Abroad
Everybody falls in love with their abroad experience a little bit differently. Perhaps, it is because I am an English major, but what I fell in love with were the stories. The Seminar in Europe is about the stories of places, of art, of architecture, and of people. Let me explain.
While in Greece, my fellow students and I visited the National Gallery where I encountered one my favorite pieces of art, and, for the record, I have a very small list of favorites when compared to the vast volumes of art that one sees throughout this program. But this piece, like the swirling Van Goghs in Paris, or Apollo and Daphne in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, captured my attention in ways that two years later still make me think. He was sunken treasure. He lay at the bottom of the sea, with the grinding of shells and sand and waves, with the nibbling fish and the churning storms. Half exposed to the elements and half buried in the wreckage and the sand, until they pulled him free and sat him amongst his fellow sculptures, to be admired, gazed upon, wondered about by visitors like me. And I still wonder about him.
I wonder about the steps of the Eiffel Tower. I wonder how many shoes have, like mine, banged on each metal platform
as they propelled a person up and up, so that they could stand in the the whipping wind of a chilly spring day and look out over a city whose immensity can only be understood when you squint at the horizon and still cannot see an edge. A city that has seen grown artists and schools of thought and that has survived war. And maybe its the view, maybe its wind, or maybe its impossibility of the city’s story, but I remember how it took my breath away.
I still wonder about the feelings of standing in Dachau. I remember the intensity with which I felt the emptiness of that place. A place filled to bursting with history, and yet somehow so barren. It felt “off” somehow. As if the history, the story of such a place should be more tangible to me. So, I walked. I walked into the museum and up to a laminated binder inside a glass case where a single, blue fingerprint on a page struck me with sadness. Before me was marker of a person whose life and whose story was lost in this place. It was in that moment of understanding loss, in a way I never had before, that I realized how much I had gained from this program.
Through this program, I gained not only knowledge and understanding through my studies of the history, culture, and art of the places I have been fortunate enough to visit, but I have gained a new appreciation of the stories I carry within myself. All of these moments and a million more, which occurred during my study abroad experience and since, have become a part of my story and have shaped me in new and unexpected ways.
So, as I watch this year’s Seminar in Europe program add to their own stories, in ways which are similar to and, yet, incredibly different from mine, I can’t help hoping that they allow the stories of their experience to change them, because, you can take my word for it, it’s for the best.