MOUNT OLIVE — Sixteen University of Mount Olive students recently spent six days overseas in the beautiful countries of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The trip was part of the Honors program at the University.
Each year Honors program participants take a study and travel course during their junior year to learn about the history and culture of a destination of their choosing. At the end of the semester, the students have the opportunity to travel to that destination. The trip is budgeted into the academic curriculum and provides every student the financial ability to participate.
This year’s group of studnets with President and Mrs. Philip P. Kerstetter, Dr. and Mrs. Alan Lamm, and Mrs. Jackie Hill spent their first day in Amsterdam. Their adventure included a scenic canal cruise with an up-close view of stately historic homes and charming churches. They also travelled to a local cheese farm and learned about the processes of making cheese and iconic wooden clogs. The next stop was Volendam, a quaint fishing village in Holland.
“We all tried different raw fish from a local food stand, and surprisingly they were really good,” said Courtney McNamara, a senior psychology major from Richmond, Va. “One of the oddest things that I ate was raw eel.”
During free time in Amsterdam, many of the students ventured into various museums, churches, and historical sites, including the Anne Frank House.
“Visiting the Anne Frank House was incredible,” said Emily Shaw, a senior English major from Gilbert, AZ. “The museum truly brought the words of the Diary of Anne Frank to life. As we toured the house and stood in the very spots in which Anne wrote, we developed a new understanding of World War II and an appreciation for the Frank family’s courage.”
After spending two days exploring Amsterdam and surrounding villages, the group departed the Netherlands and traveled to Brussels, Belgium. Here, they visited the Atomium, a gigantic structure that still remains from the 1958 World Expo. They also viewed the Palace of Justice, Opera House, Royal Palace, and the famous Mannekin Pis fountain while enjoying the country’s famous and delicious Belgium waffles.
Once they viewed the tremendous sites of Brussels, they continued their Belgian experience and journeyed to the city of Bruges, also known as the “Venice of the North.” The group was amazed by the medieval buildings and felt as if they stepped into a time capsule as they walked along the picturesque cobbled lanes. During their tour of the city, the group visited Our Lady’s Church, which houses the famous Madonna statue by Michelangelo.
The final destination of the journey was Paris, France. The group dined at La Petite Chaise, the oldest restaurant in Paris, where they ate a tradition three-course French meal. They then toured an illuminated Paris where a local tour guide introduced them to numerous legendary monuments and buildings, including the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Louvre Musuem, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. At the end of the tour the group was surprised to see an illuminated Eiffel Tower.
“My absolute favorite part of the trip was the light show at the Eiffel Tower,” explained Lauren Smith, a senior exercise science major from Clinton. “It was an amazing experience to see the whole city light up!”
The group’s final day abroad consisted of a Parisian city tour and free time in which they toured museums, monuments, and churches. Students especially loved touring the Louvre Museum and the renowned Notre Dame cathedral.
“The overall experience was indescribable,” said McNamara. “Getting to actually see the history and monuments that I had previously learned about was truly amazing. This experience is something that I will never forget.”
Akiharu Kitagawa, a senior chemistry major from Wilsonville, OR, added, “The trip has definitely influenced me to travel in the future. We learned so much about European travel, culture, cuisine, and history. I was even able to see the ‘Mona Lisa’ and the ‘Venus de Milo,’ which are famous art pieces that I have only ever dreamed about seeing in person!”
Recent graduate Leah Graham of Mount Holly traveled to Greece and Turkey last year in the Honors Program and could not resist participating in this year’s European adventure. “The experience was amazing,” said Graham. “Being in different countries makes you appreciate your own country and respect other cultures. These trips have really broadened my horizons, and I have made my mind up to travel more!”
“We have all created memories that we will cherish long after we graduate from UMO,” said Shaw. “Cities and monuments that were once just pictures in textbooks are now experiences that we can treasure for the rest of our lives. We are all so tremendously thankful for the donors, professors, and President and Mrs. Kerstetter, who all make experiences like this for students possible.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The university, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.