Jonathan Pelham is a rising sophomore on the UGA Track and Cross Country Team. He is a Political Science and International Affair major and had the opportunity to study abroad during the summer of 2016.
This summer I was fortunate enough to study aboard in Verona, Italy. Prior to arriving at Georgia last fall, I had always wanted to study abroad. I was very fortunate in the overwhelming amount of encouragement I received from my family, coaches and teammates who all supported my desire to travel across Europe this summer. Moreover, I was extremely grateful to have been selected to receive one of the study abroad stipends provided by The Georgia Way.
The trip began with our group traveling to Krakow, Poland. Poland was somewhere I had never imagined going, but definitely a place I will never forget. Our time in Poland consisted of many group meals, tours, and energetic sightseeing of the first foreign country we would visit. In Poland, our tours focused primarily on the Holocaust and how the city was affected during World War II. We traveled just outside the city to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was one of the more notable concentration camps under the Nazi regime. The information I learned consisted of some things that I will remember for the rest of my life. Additionally, the time spent on the original grounds was extraordinarily humbling and quieting when contemplating all of those who suffered and died there. We also visited Schindler’s factory, and the Jewish quarter in Krakow. The factory in particular, was very informational in how it functioned by saving Jews and the process of how it functioned day in and day out. By the end of our few days in Krakow the group had become very close. After our time there, we jetted off to our primarily location for the trip – Verona, Italy!
After a long day of traveling we finally arrived in Verona. The city itself was spectacular. Verona was extremely efficient, it had a city feel to it, the streets were clean, it was safe to walk around, and the culture was so inviting to all of us. Prior to the beginning of classes we were able to travel around the city and see all the sights Verona had to offer. I could not have asked for a more perfect city to spend the summer in, it was simply magnificent! Verona had tons of shops, great architecture, history and plenty of breathtaking views.
As classes began, I got into a routine similar to the one I follow here in Athens. We had class from eight to one Monday through Thursday. This time during the week was rather intense. Between class and training, often during the week I was bogged down with school and was not able to get out as much as I would have liked. However, on Thursday afternoons everyone bolted to new destinations for our weekend travels. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. These independent travel plans were fun challenges for me and all of my new friends to take on. We were able to travel on three separate weekends while studying in Verona. For my weekend travels, I decided to visit Munich, Germany, Wengen, Switzerland, and Cinque Terra, Italy.
The first weekend I traveled to Munich, Germany. What a city! I had not planned to travel to Munich, but I had jumped on board at the last minute with some of my new friends. Munich was phenomenal. There is so much history see and hear that I could not grasp it all in my short time there. Moreover, the culture is strong and at the same time so inviting in Germany! My time spent biking in the English gardens, or laying down in Marienplatz square, or hanging around the Glockenspiel are memories I will never forget.
The second weekend I traveled to Wengen, Switzerland. Wengen is a small hill top town, roughly thirty minutes by train from Interlaken. We went to Wengen for a relaxing weekend in the Alps. It was nothing short of spectacular. The weekend consisted of a lot of hiking, and relaxing in the beautiful mountains that surrounded us. My friends and I were able to book a cheap flat for the weekend – waking up to see the Alps from the comfort of your own bed was pretty remarkable. In addition, we climbed up into the mountain the see the inner works of a number of waterfalls. The views and pictures from Switzerland are easily some of the most breathtaking shots I have ever witnessed.
Finally, the last weekend we decided to stay in Italy and travel to Cinque Terra. Cinque Terra is a chain of five small towns along the coast of Italy. Each town has its own unique culture and style, making it fun to hike from town to town. A train runs between the five towns and that is the only form of transportation for those who live there. We spent one of our days hiking from each town, and taking in the amazing views the coast had to offer. We were also able to get a tour of each town from the sea. Our group got a great deal, and we were able to boat all day on a sixty-foot catamaran. The last day, we rested and just enjoyed the scenery by sitting on the beach in Monterrosso. The trip to Cinque Terra was definitely one of my favorites!
The following week consisted of a few stressful days of finals. After finishing up classes and finals, we relaxed as our final few days in Verona were coming to a close. Verona had become like a second home to me. The final day in Verona, I mustered up the courage to go skydiving with one of my pals. It was such a thrilling experience, and a great way to close out my time in Verona. The view of Verona and the surrounding towns from the air was breathtaking to say the least. Reflecting back now, I will truly miss the foods, drinks, cultures, and adventures that this wonderful place provided me with.
The last week, similar to Poland, the group traveled to Venice and Rome. This last week was exhausting, but simultaneously very rewarding. Celebrating the end of finals, and enjoying our last week in Italy was fun for everyone involved. I was able to see numerous pieces of famous art, religious symbols, and different cultures than what I had experienced so far. The history and fast times of Rome make it an extremely interesting place. Obviously, there are ruins there that are extremely old, but at the same time the town is a hub of business with flashy shops and stores. The history I experienced in this last week is too much to report in one whole essay- each requires its own paper. However, this intense week of tours and learning was something that I am extremely thankful for. I learned quite a bit of history and gained a greater respect for how the world has come to function.
I find that one of my favorite parts of the trip that occurred everywhere I went was of course, the running. Each town had its own perks and quirks that I got to explore through running. Often, I saw many more things than my classmates by simply running out the front door and exploring every morning. Although I may have lost a good bit of sleep, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my runs throughout Europe. The sights and sounds when running through the streets of Rome, the views of running along the Swiss Alps, and ending my runs to the sunrise over the Italian coast are memories that I am truly thankful for.