The five Wabash men who spoke at the Jan. 27 Chapel gathering about their recent semesters studying in Europe learned enough from experience to teach by example. One by one, they regaled the large crowd of students and faculty with their accounts of the ways in which their Wabash education prepared them to be something more that mere innocents abroad. They shared selected tales of their European adventures, and offered up advice to their fellow students who have yet to set foot on foreign soil.
Sophomore Marty Brown led off by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, who thought travel a waste of time since one’s burdens travel with him. Brown found, to the contrary, that his travel companion was the enlightening Little Giant ethos, which, among other things, prompted him to invite the group of Australian students in a Spanish karaoke bar to join him for a round of beer after they had vehemently criticized his support of President Bush in the American election last fall.
On a cold Madrid night Brown and a few friends were asked by authorities to leave a bus station where they had planned to spend the night. Ousted and penniless, they used Wabash ingenuity to combine their coats, hats and scarves into make-shift blankets to stay warm on a park bench until morning. "These experiences prepare us to live in the whole world," Brown concluded.
Senior Mark Cross’ stay in Northern Ireland caused him to return to campus appreciating Wabash and the United States more than he ever had before. Not that he didn’t enjoy his stay. The beauty of the land and the Irish seriousness of purpose impressed him deeply. His affection for our government grew during a conversation with an Irish girl who told him U.S. citizens should be grateful that their vote means something because her elected representative doesn’t even have a voice in government.
Sophomores Doug Berry and Joe Martin then explained some of the many differences between Wabash and the University of Aberdeen, where they studied. A major difference was the presence of women, which Martin allowed was a pleasant change of scenery. They traveled throughout Europe as much as possible and reported that Nice has the most beautiful sunsets; Paris the most expensive "public" restrooms; a steady Scottish diet of fish and chips doesn’t compare with the deliciously varied American student diet of Steak & Shake, Mountain Dew, and McDonald’s; that it is very difficult to live on a loaf of bread and one bottle of water for six days; and, especially, said Berry, "that you need to experience overseas study to fully appreciate Wabash."
Senior Phu Hong had always thought of Europe as a dark and gloomy continent until he arrived in warm, sunny Rome for his overseas study, he reported at the Chapel. With a Latin minor at Wabash, he has studied the Eternal City but was not prepared for the full extent of its beauty. Enthralled as he was, he provided his fellow students with valuable suggestions of what not to do in Rome.
A complicated tale of farewells, mud, and a lost cell phone ended with the aforementioned advice about not swimming in the Tiber, while another had to do with a good deed seriously lost in translation.
In Venice, where the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square are as infamous as they are numerous, Mr. Hong saw one luckless bird struck by a bus; he tried to put it out of its misery by snapping its neck, a gesture not appreciated for its humanitarian concern by the Italian security guard standing nearby. Neither was his next effort, trying to give the pigeon a decent burial under a little pile of dirt he kicked up with his shoe. Mr. Hong and the guard failed to see eye to eye on the entire matter, but the Wabash man escaped being thrown into one of the Venetian canals and was able to return safely to campus to share his advice at Chapel.