Study Abroad - Ryan Connors '16 in Europe

In front of the Reichstag in Berlin
In front of the Reichstag in Berlin

Men's lacrosse rising junior Ryan Connors was part of a school-sponsored study abroad trip to Europe earlier this summer. Connors was honored at the 2013-14 athletic banquet as the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and also earned spots on the all-state and all-conference academic teams.  

This is his write-up of his activities during the study abroad in Europe.

On May 28 the whole class flew into Rome. During our time in Rome we saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon, but we also saw several sights that related more closely to the two classes I was taking while taking while abroad, a Political Science class called "How Wars End" and an English class called "Literature of Modern European Wars". These sites included Mussolini's office, the Italian fascist parties youth exercise grounds and the location of Mussolini's march into the city. We also stopped at the American cemetery in Anzio and the Abbey at Monte Casino, both stark reminders of the sacrifices of the American and Allied troops to topple the Italian fascist government and push the Nazis out of Italy.

We then took a ferry from Southern Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia. During our time in the Balkans we saw Dubrovnik, Vukovar, and Osijek in Croatia and Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In these five areas we explored in great detail the conflict between the ex-Yugoslav states during the 1990's and the entire class was extremely surprised by the level of ignorance we all shared on the topic of the Yugoslav Wars. Taking place less than 20 years ago, we were all struck by the level of destruction and death caused by the ethnic conflict and disturbed by the fact that we had never once learned about the topic in school. In Dubrovnik we spoke with a man who defended the city from Serbian forces as a teen, and he took us to the hills above the city and showed us exact places where he slept and fought. The small city of Mostar may have been one of the most scenic places we visited on the trip, and Sarajevo treated us to a much different culture than any of us had ever experienced. In Sarajevo we saw the site of the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand which started World War I and the several other sites related to the siege of Sarajevo by Serb forces during the Yugoslav wars including a secret supply tunnel. 

From the Balkans we headed north to Hungary to visit Budapest. Budapest was one of my favorite locations places we saw on the trip; the architecture and culture of the city is a unique blend of classical European and Eastern European. The Holocaust museum in the city left a very profound impression upon all of us.

From Hungary we moved to Austria, staying in Vienna. The focus in Vienna was split between the city as the seat of the Austro-Hungarian empire prior to World War I, the city's role in Hitler's annexation of Austria, and the city's occupation by Allied forces after World War 2. We visited the Palace, the Secret Police museum, and a museum about the classic film The Third Man.

From Austria we made our way to Germany. Of all the countries we visited, we spent the longest time in Germany, visiting Munich, Leipzig, Nuremburg and Berlin. In Munich we experienced the culture of Bavaria and saw some of the scenes associated with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. In Nuremburg we saw the Nazi party rally grounds where the annual Nazi party rallies took place. In Leipzig we focused on the student lead peaceful protests that lead to the end of the GDR and the reunification of Germany. During our time in Berlin we saw the Sachenhousen concentration camp, the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and a lot of other sites around Berlin as well.

From Berlin we headed to Belgium, stopping in Bastogne to visit the site of the Battle of the Bulge and the new museum that had just opened there.

After Belgium we spent the night in Luxembourg and then made our way to Reims in France. On the way to Reims we stopped at Belleau Wood and Chateau Thierry, the sites of some of the largest battles of the First World War.

From Reims we traveled to Bayeux. While Bayeux was a nice French village, we stayed there because of its proximity to the beaches at Normandy. In one day we visited Omaha and Utah Beaches, Pointe du Hoc, and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. While at the beaches and Memorial we were all struck by the level of sacrifice made by all these young men and realized just how difficult the battle must have been on that morning in June of 1944.

From Bayeux we moved to Paris. We spent a day seeing the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre, Notre Dame and several other sites around the city. The next day, on June 28th, we flew back to the US. 

We saw an awful lot in one month, and as someone who had never been to Europe before I feel very fortunate that I was able to see so much is such a short period of time. Dr. Lipani, Dr. Lang, and our guide Declan Pratt of Global Explorers put together an excellent program that balanced the educational portions of the trip with free time so that we could explore on our own. I'm extremely glad I took the opportunity to a be a part of this study abroad program and it really was an experience that I will never forget.

Ryan Connors '16
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