Victoria Hannen | GEL South Korea
Going to Seoul, South Korea, was not only my first international trip with Shenandoah, but my first international trip ever! I went to work the 2019 Seoul Marathon. South Korea offered many things for me: new food, new people, new friends, new opportunities, but most importantly a new perspective. While we were there we got to see the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bongeunsa Temple, and the Jamsil Olympic Stadium. Seoul has beautiful sights such as architecture, mountains, rivers, and lots of skyscrapers. South Korea is a beautiful country with an amazing culture.
Anne Griggs | GEL Rwanda
We spent the trip seeing so many incredible sights that Africa has to offer — and it was life-changing in every sense of the phrase. We started off the trip in Kigali, Rwanda for a few hours before traveling by van to Uganda to visit the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. For most of the trip, we went out to visit the Nyaka grandmothers, and interviewed them about their lives and the impact of such an incredible organization. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had in my life. Interviewing these incredible women, and hearing their stories of empowerment marked some of the most pivotal points in my life so far. We traveled to another part of Uganda to take a few days to do safari drives and boat rides. Eventually, we traveled back to Kigali to spend a day or so visiting sights before making the long trek back home to the US.
Erik Daughterman | GEL Eurozone (Germany, Italy, Switzerland, & France)
In Switzerland, our hotel was once an operating prison. Lucky for me, I don’t have any ghost stories to regale you with, but I can tell you about our trip up to the top of Mt. Rigi. We started with a boat ride on the lake that lasted about an hour. From there we took a cogwheel train up to the top of the mountain where we were treated to some amazing views of the Swiss alps. To top it all off we took a cable car down to the base of the mountain to bring an end to our amazing adventure. Perhaps the most exciting moment of our trip occurred during one of our travel breaks on our way to Lucerne, Switzerland. We had stopped in Como, Italy, for lunch and after having a perfectly lovely meal outside, and before we could even pay the check, the storm hit. Wind was rushing past, napkins were flying, people were running. Long story short our whole class ended up huddled under an awning hiding from the hail that had decided to show up.
Madeleine Bohnett | GEL Senegal
Violin Performance & Religion Major
Before leaving for Senegal, our GEL Leaders Profs. Meredith and Kevin Minister asked us to reflect on one thing we would like to bring with us on on this trip, and I chose to bring positive energy. Throughout the trip, I could feel that the collective energy of the group was one that would allow for creativity, intellectual inspiration, and spiritual experiences, which would prove to come in handy on some of our more emotionally challenging days. One of the more difficult days (emotionally and spiritually) was our day spent on Gorée Island, a small island off the coast of Dakar, which from the 15th to the 19th century was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast. Another challenge was facing the sheer reality of white savior complex while visiting some of the smaller villages in Toubacouta; these experiences forced us to recognize our own privilege that comes from living in the United States and being able to attend a private university. Besides these difficult yet necessary experiences, my trip to Senegal can best be described in a story told through verbs: Visiting Koranic schools, standing inside 1,000+ year old baobab trees, experiencing family life with university students in their villages, walking through churches and mosques, drinking baobab and pineapple juice, eating mangoes, running from monkeys, saving a fish’s life (possibly), spending priceless time with my mentor Meredith Minister and getting to know Kevin Minister better, reflecting on the impact of French colonialism in the larger political, economic, and social structures in Senegal, getting sun-burned, gazing at stars, and bonding and growing with my peers.
Melanie Faliskie | Finland Semester Abroad
For my study abroad I chose to go to Finland because they are ranked number one for their education. I traveled to a lot of cute towns in Finland and also went north into the Arctic Circle. I swam in the Arctic Ocean, which was super cold and then ran straight into a sauna. I also traveled to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Estonia. My favorite thing I did while I was in Finland was participate in my school’s “Gulisingtagning,” which was a competition all around the city I lived in with games, trivia, and a whole lot of bribes.
Josh Gomke | GCP Cuba
WordPress Development Specialist
Within the 10 days that I was out of the country, I grew as a human being and became challenged to pre-existing thoughts and assumptions I had. It was thrilling to experience a completely different type of culture based on people who focus on certain priorities such as family/personal relationships with a greater emphasis than the U.S. We got the opportunity to talk to some world-class artists and visit their studio in Santiago de Cuba. We saw amazing dance lessons, a la ropa vieja food instruction and music performances throughout Havana, Trinidad and Camaguey.
Chynna Beckett | GEL Senegal
My adventures in Senegal were unforgettable! The whole trip I felt so comfortable, as if I was at home and that was a truly amazing feeling. The most life changing experience for me was touring The House of Slaves and standing in The Door Of No Return on Gorèe Island. Being African-American, I feel a strong connection to this site because my ancestors were forced to go through that door to an unknown destination. The Senegalese people that I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with were extremely kind, funny, and hospitable!
Andrea Smith | GEL Cuba
Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies
Three things in particular stand out every time I reflect on the trip to Cuba. First, the kindness and hospitality of the Cuban people, who are very welcoming to Americans. Second, a visit to the national literacy museum where we learned about Cuba’s campaign to eradicate illiteracy throughout the island, which they accomplished in a few short years in the 1960s. Third, in a word, FLAN. Our group’s running joke was that we had flan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that we never wanted to see flan again as long as we lived! After a few days, we discovered that the overabundance of flan was due to a shortage of ingredients, chocolate in particular (due to damage caused at one of the island’s major chocolate factories), and we became much more appreciative.
Joey Gawrysiak | GCP New Zealand
We traveled to New Zealand during March 2019. We visited the south island city of Dunedin and the University of Otago before heading to the north island to see Auckland and Rotorua, a town with deep Maori culture. The worst thing about this trip is that we were not able to spend more time there! The travel to get there took about 20 hours total and you miss a full day, so it’s like time traveling and gets your body clock WAY off. The people, the culture and the scenery are all second to none of anywhere that I have been. One thing to note on this trip was that we were there during the shooting in Christchurch. This made the trip much more unique as the vibe of the country changed. This was a place considered paradise and a land of innocence that was really shocked by those tragic events, and we could feel that effect on the trip.
Scott King | GEL Germany & Austria
In Austria we experienced a low and high of the trip. The low was arriving to Vienna after trying to sleep in bunkbeds on an overnight train from Mainz. Sleep-deprived and still woozy from motion sickness, students struggled to stand up straight during a tour of the Viktor Frankl Museum. We had to stop the lesson so they could sit down outside. A high point was the next day when we hiked in the Austrian Alps and enjoyed some amazing views and mountain air. Students couldn’t stop singing songs from “The Sound of Music”. We also went to Munich (inc. the Dachau concentration camp), Leipzig, and Berlin, and had meaningful experiences in all those places that I could talk about too.
Jennifer Green | GEL Greece
Assistant Dean of Administration; Executive Director of Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy; Adjunct Assistant Professor, Performing Arts Leadership & Management; Adjunct Professor, School of Education and Leadership
We visited locations like Sounio Beach and the Temple of Poseidon, Mycenae and Epidaurus. We explored Athens in-depth, including the Acropolis, the Plaka district, the Zografou neighborhood and countless museums, music venues, restaurants, and shops all over the city. We also visited renowned cultural institutions like the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, the Theatre of Epidaurus, and the Onassis Cultural Center for performances. Exploration of Greek culture also included olive oil and wine tasting, partaking in traditional meals, and visiting beaches. We were fortunate to have a relatively smooth trip- however the few bumps in the road that occurred (lost luggage, a constant search for gluten free bread or dairy free meals, minor illnesses, ant invasions, running between flights, and a pickpocketing incident or two) are to be expected as part of international travel. Overall, an excellent trip.
Carolyn Coulson, GEL England
Associate Professor of Theatre
From May 25 through June 7, sixteen Shenandoah Conservatory theatre students traveled to England. The trip introduced students to the theatre and history of London and the United Kingdom. Group performance highlights featured a cross-gendered Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe, Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic, and an immersive Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre. The group also visited several historical sites such as Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, Oxford, and Stratford-upon-Avon. They also took in many of London’s great museums, including the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Museum of London, the Wallace Collection, and a special Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. The students’ independence and flexibility served them well when one student didn’t make our initial flight out to London, and, on the way to the airport for our flight home, our chartered coach was stuck in such a traffic jam that we had to jump out, get all our luggage, and get on the Underground…in the rain.
Montressa Washington | GEL Romania
Assistant Professor of Management
Timișoara is the 3rd largest city in Romania and the main social, economic and cultural centre in western Romania with a growing young professional population. We also ventured to Rosia Montana, a community of sixteen villages located in a district known as the Golden Quadrilateral, in the South Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania, Romania. We stayed at a lovely B&B, Casa Petri, owned and operated by young social entrepreneurs. There we indulged in local culinary delicacies prepared by women in the village. We fell in love with the old town of Sighisoara city, which dates back to the Roman times. During our guided tour, we enjoyed historical landmarks such as 500-year-old frescoes and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, known for its Transylvanian renaissance carved altarpiece, Baroque pulpit, Oriental carpets and 17th century organ. We walked the narrow and cobblestoned streets of Sighisoara citadel built in the 12th century, and were in awe of its still functional 14th century clock tower. Of course, no trip to Romania would be complete without a visit to Bran Castle – Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania. Before our stop to Bran Castle, we made a lunch pit stop to Restaurant Club Vila Bran, a traditional sheepfold restaurant with a spectacular view of the Bran Castle and the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains.
Uyen Tran | GCP Spain
Doctor of Physical Therapy student, ’20
Our first day was spent in Barcelona, the city with the beautiful gothic architecture and astonishing cathedrals, including the La Sagrada Familia by Gaudí. We also watched the astounding “Human Tower” event, which is a common tradition in Spain. On day 3, we took the Renfe high speed train that brought us from Barcelona to Madrid in 2.5 hours. Once we made it to Madrid, we toured the city, shopped, and visited the “Time Square” area called the Plaza Mayor. On day 4, we took a bus to Segovia to visit a castle called The Alcázar of Segovia and also the beautiful gardens of La Granja. Our GCP group visited a university English class in Cáceres. The students of the class and our SU students spoke to each other about all sorts of subjects. It was refreshing to see their views on the US and exchange our thoughts on some sensitive subjects. The day before the last, we took a bus to Mérida and toured the Roman ruins, which were astonishing to see.
Jason Euman | GEL South Korea
Sport Management Major
I visited Seoul, South Korea, for the 2019 Seoul International Marathon. Seeing the city was jaw dropping given the rows and rows of giant skyscrapers and historical temples. The traffic is way crazier than DC traffic and everyone there has very nice, clean cars. The food was amazing, even the kimchi tasted a lot better than it sounded.
Roxanne Popkins | GCP Mozambique & South Africa
Shenandoah University Custodian
There is so much to talk about what we experienced in Mozambique and South Africa. We visited an orphanage in the village of Cambine. The children do not have much, but they were so happy and full of love. The view of the Indian Ocean was spectacular. Every place we ate—at the motel Terminus in Maputo, the guest house in Cambine, the fish market by the ocean in Xai Xai, the road side restaurant where they cooked outside—were so delicious. We learned a lot of history there about the United Methodist church in Africa. The safari in Pilanisburg, South Africa, was amazing. I will never forget this experience of a lifetime.
Regine Bumper | GCP Thailand
Thailand revealed to me the true beauty that lies within the brokenness of the world. The Thai people showered in love the minute I landed in the airport, something I’d never felt by many people of this very own country. Elephants and a monk offered deeper connections within ourselves and the earth itself. Contrasting chili pepper and brown sugar seasonings lit up my tastebuds in traditional Pad Thai dishes as I strolled down the market place. Beauty exuded from the Thai people all the way to its 1,000+ old temples, forcing me open myself up to whatever Thailand wanted to offer.
Shana McMeans | GEL Romania
Romania was a lot more than just Dracula and vampires. This Eastern European country was full of colorful architecture and cobblestone streets, extremely cheesy foods, and beautiful castles. The Bran Castle located in the heart of Romania is the staple attraction to visit with its layers of history and gorgeous views at every window. Away from the popular attractions, Rosia Montana gives a glimpse into the famous gold mining industry, and a look into the breathtaking lakes and rolling hills of rural Romania.
Petra Schweitzer | GEL Eurozone (France, Germany, Italy, & Switzerland)
Professor of Comparative Literature & Program Coordinator for Gender and Women’s Studies
Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace in France, presents itself as a magical city with a turbulent history. The awareness that Strasbourg was captured by the Germans during the France-German War in 1870-1871 and passed hands several times between France and Germany evokes a curiosity in visitors to find places and stories about the transformational times. Today, Strasbourg radiates its French heritage and culture and allows tourists to embrace the architecture of the Gothic Cathedral and the old town. Strasbourg’s extraordinary city continues in contemporary times; it is the home of the European Parliament, the council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. Reflecting peace for now 70 years, Strasbourg embodies a space of harmony and connectivity.