24 February, 2011

The Many Forms of Travel

Travel- what can I say about it?  We all do it.  We travel to work, we travel to study, we travel for pleasure.  Travel to work is the one where we look for patterns.  You see the same people from day to day on your train or bus or in the street.  And when the pattern varies, you notice.  Perhaps so much so that you comment on it, for example, if your train leaves 2 minutes earlier than it is scheduled to leave so that even though you thought you were going to be on time you actually ended up having to wait 20 minutes for the next one, or if your bus is rerouted because the police have blocked off a sizable portion of the Walworth Road due to some undisclosed event.  Traveling to study is pretty obvious.  All our students got on a plane to come to the ICLC.  It's something interesting and different, and, unique compared to the other 2 kinds of travel, it's perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Traveling to study is a springboard for a lot of traveling for pleasure for many of our students, too.  This is the kind where you have to hope that no patterns form and that each place is interesting and different.  I have noticed a few themes in study abroad inspired travel for pleasure.

There is the study abroad student who is determined to go to as many places as possible.  As a result, when their 4 months of study are done, they have also packed in trips to Paris, Dublin, Rome, Prague, Munich, Athens, Barcelona and Amsterdam.  And that's not including break week or trips with the ICLC.  This type of travel requires an enormous amount of energy and a love of waking up early/sleeping in airports.  I commend that dedication!

The next type of student travel is the one to family or friends in Europe.  This often takes students to places which are less tourist driven than the cities previously mentioned.  They might have cousins in Marseilles or friends studying in Marrakesh.  In this type of travel students often get a much more local experience by visiting someone who lives there.  They eat in small restaurants off the main roads and visit markets that they may not have found on their own.  And your hosts may even be your guides to take you to the highest point in Bratislava or introduce you to contemporary Estonian folk music.

Another type of travel that takes students to less obvious destinations is the mission to discover their European roots.  This has taken me to Ireland, France and Germany.  I have seen it take other students to Holland, Denmark, Brittany and Glasgow.  This type of travel can be tricky because it may be focused around a small or little known landmark, such as a house, farm, shop or street.  While finding these particular spots may end up being fruitless (my mother and I traveled all the way to Strasbourg before she admitted that she wasn't sure what her mother's house number had been as a child, though she was pretty sure she might be able to recognize it is she saw it in the row of buildings that all looked the same to me) getting there is usually a story in itself.  What makes this kind of journey even more difficult is not knowing whether the place you are looking for is actually still there or not.  My great-grandfather's family farm had been replaced by a shop that specialized in ceramic tiles.

The other type of student travel is the the UK based journey.  Some students prefer to get to know the ins and outs of London on their weekends or to save money on day trips to places like Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge.  Some students have family in the UK who they spend the day with and some use these day trips to case out possible graduate schools. 

I think most students fall under more than one of these categories at one stage or another during their stay over here.  Just to make it more interesting, the ICLC has competitions for break week.  There is a competition to bring back the tackiest souvenir and the postcard competition in which the card must be written in the native language of the country it is from and posted into the ICLC.  There are also the competitions that are judged at the end of the semester for photography and travel writing.  More details will be posted about the competitions.  Good luck and happy travels!

-Claire (not Elsie, she's away in Finland)

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