"Travel broadens one"—or so the wisdom has always gone. It also exhausts. Just look at what we do in a typical ten-day trip to The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany:
- In Ypres, Belgium we might visit a battlefield museum and learn about the World War I battle between Germany and Belgium. The following day might be Belgian beach day. We would be transported by ferry to an island to visit the historic Castle Loevestein. (Some people swear that it is haunted.) We could have lunch on the island and then head back to the house for a group cookout.
- In The Netherlands we typically visit the flower market and the Parliament buildings in Amsterdam, as well as the Van Gogh Museum, the House Boat Museum, the Jewish Historical Museum, Anne Frank's family hideaway, and the Amsterdam Dungeons. We also might tour the windmills that keep the village of Kinderkijk dry, or the Neeltje Jans (Delta Works) to learn about the loch system that keeps the sea from flooding in.
- In Utrecht, we might climb Dom Tower in the city's 600+ year old medieval church (465 steps to the top) and take a tour of Slot Zuylen Castle.
- In Geldern, Germany we tend to visit a local spa, and float in an outdoor mineral bath. (On one memorable trip, a girl who'd never swum took her first ever successful strokes there with the support of her friends!) Then they might kayak the next day, all day, on the river Niers.
Yes, it's lots of museums, churches, castles, and historical sites. But don't forget the beach day, the spa, and the kayaking day. And in Cologne we visit a chocolate factory and buy souvenirs. We take a shopping spree. And we make sure to give everyone access to some plain-old American food, so that even the pickiest of eaters don't go hungry.
Even with all of the fun we have, our study trips to Europe do change students' perspectives, and even their lives. A little more world-wise, a little more savvy, and probably a lot more weary, they are on their way to becoming informed citizens—and ones who will always remember an enormous, shared adventure.