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Study tour molds student tourists into travel writers

Calvin Benevento and Erin Giles at the Louvre Museum in Paris
January 28, 2014

Fourteen students recorded countless memories from the 13 days spent abroad as part of “Travel Writing Across Europe,” one of more than a dozen off-campus Jan Term opportunities.

This one took McDaniel students from Normandy to Paris and Vienna to Budapest, a journey that covered over 10,000 miles and multiple modes of transportation- almost 1,500 miles not counting the flights from and to America.

While traveling by plane, train, bus, metro, taxi and foot, they experienced and wrote about the blending of old and new in the art museums, churches, catacombs – and even a farm – that filled their itinerary.

After reading published travel writers and trying her own hand at it, junior Katelynn Deibel proposed her own definition of travel writing.

“In travel writing, the author often undergoes a dynamic journey in which he/she explores a place in great detail: its landscape, weather, natives, culture, etc. And, perhaps more importantly, it is a personal experience that involves placing oneself into the new surroundings and reflecting upon this in the text,” wrote the Biology major from Havre de Grace, Md.

Study tour leader Josh Ambrose – Prof A, as he is called by his students – would agree, especially with the latter half of this idea.

“Places are often the means for the subject to learn about themselves. You don’t have to be an expert on the place,” said Ambrose, director of the Writing Center. He notes that travel writing is one of the oldest features of literature, giving examples like the Book of Exodus, Homer’s “The Odyssey” and the ancient “Epic of Gilgamesh.”

More importantly, writing is an act of recording memory and processing it, said Ambrose. Self-reflection was one of his goals for the class, along with experiencing cultural differences, gaining a sense of history, learning how Americans are perceived elsewhere and even simply getting out of the country.

This rang true for Maggie Myers, who had never before left the States.

“This Jan Term definitely forced me outside of my comfort zone, but in a good way.  It has helped me become more independent and confident, which will benefit every aspect of my life – future and now,” she said.

Myers, a sophomore from Finksburg, Md., hopes to return to Budapest for a semester after spending time with the students of McDaniel Europe.

Read excerpts from the students’ travel journals below:


USA: “What does it mean to be a tourist?”


FRANCE: “Mont St. Michel”


AUSTRIA: “Pinch Me…I’m Dreaming”


HUNGARY: “McDaniel Budapest”
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