This spring, seven MCLA students joined 36 others from South Dakota and Texas on an adventure in France, which began in Paris and continued in the Loire Valley, Brittany and Normandy.
"While on top of the Eiffel Tower it was really one of those moments where it sunk in that I was in France, on the Eiffel Tower, in Europe, and doing something I had wanted to do for years," said Nicole Sweeney '12.
"Walking through Notre Dame in Paris, built almost 1,000 years ago, is an incredible experience," said Dr. Anthony Daly, the MCLA history professor who brought the students to France as part of his travel study class. "So is looking out over the 10,000 white crosses lined up perfectly in the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach in Normandy. Students make a connection with history that is unlike anything that can be read or watched."
"My grandfather was in the Navy and my dad loves history. He and my brother have always had a love for military history and wars," Sweeney said. "I've come to realize that I enjoy it a lot, too, and seeing Omaha Beach and the National Cemetery in France was amazing and very emotional."
Other highlights included the beauty and culture of the streets of Paris in spring - including the cobblestoned Latin Quarter - the castles, or chateaux, at Amboise and Chenonceau built during the Renaissance; an exploration of the walled coastal city of St. Malo; sampling French food such as crepes and baguettes; and a visit to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.
"I went to tons of really amazing places - places that I'd heard about but had never been able to see. We packed so much stuff in while we were there. It was amazing how much we were able to see," said John Gavin '13.
Before traveling to France, the students attended Daly's class weekly to study French history, culture and society.
"We focused on key aspects of history such as the French Revolution and World War I and II. Students took it in turn to select online news stories to learn about various aspects of contemporary France; they also gave presentations on some of the sites we would visit. Their assignments ranged from summaries of class readings to Web research on the Paris subway," Daly explained.
Beyond the history they students saw first-hand, the experience of traveling in a foreign country provides an education in how people in different parts of the world structure their society and everyday lives in very different ways, according to Daly.
"It provides students with a perspective and point of comparison that makes them think about many things they took for granted," he said.
Brittany Guntor '14 particularly enjoyed her visit to Brittany - the part of France she was named after. "It was such a beautiful little town and I loved the time we spent there," she said.
"My eyes have really been opened to different cultures and ways of life that seem so different from what we see in the United States. My perspective has shifted since this trip and I value my education more as a result of it," Guntor said.
"I really loved seeing Paris, even though it was so busy and crowded. It's one of those things that still seems so surreal to me," she continued. "I'll be going to class or eating lunch and think, 'Just a couple weeks ago, I was sitting in a cafe in Paris.' It hasn't really sunk in yet."