From Jan 2 to Jan 10, Mercyhurst students studied abroad in England and France. The reason behind going to France and England was the fact that it was the 75th anniversary of D-Day, considered one of the most important days in U.S. and world history.
“We went there in commoration for D-Day,” Pete Stadtmueller, Graphic Design program director, said.
From seeing Big Ben from the London Eye to taking a picture with the Eiffel Tower in the background, students got to enjoy their time in Europe while also earning class credits towards their major, minor or REACH Curriculum requirements.
Among the most popular sights during the trip were the beaches at Normandy.
Jill Marcellin, a senior Communication and Graphic Design major, felt especially connected to Utah Beach, as her great uncle took part in the battle that was fought 75 years ago on that same sand where she was standing.
“It was really interesting because if you didn’t know, you’d think nothing happened there, but something tragic and important for everyone did,” she said. “It made me incredibly proud of my uncle and all of the soldiers who fought there and on all the other beaches.”
Nick Brodfuehrer, a sophomore Intelligence Studies and Political Science major, had a similar story. His great-grandfather was on Omaha Beach during World War II.
“I do think it is extremely important that people see places such as the beaches of Normandy,” he said. “It was a very weird feeling to be there. During the summer, people swim on those beaches. The meaning we have behind it in America is very different.”
Students noticed several differences between the U.S. and Europe while abroad. Sophomore Intelligence Studies and Sociology major Ally Harper pointed out that people in Europe tend to use public transportation, carpool together or walk regardless of the weather. She also noted some differences in individuals’ behaviors.
“Individuals will not approach you, and if you need something, you have to go to them versus the United States where it’s the opposite,” Harper said.
She also added that the atmosphere in France seemed to be more relaxed unlike in the U.S., where everything seems to be on a rush schedule.
They also noticed the difference in clothing styles.
“The fashion was more interesting. They wear simple things and we kind of looked like slobs,” junior Graphic Design major, Claire Orr said.
The students were not the only ones affected by this trip.
Stadtmueller was brought back to his childhood while walking on the beaches of Normandy.
“When I was a child, my mailman was one of the original Band of Brothers,” Stadtmueller said. “His name was Joe Lesniewski. We would chase him down the block. It wasn’t until later in my life that I found out this guy was a legit war hero. The whole time we were there, I was thinking of this guy and the stuff that he went through. And then he came back to Erie and worked as a mailman,” Stadtmueller said.
“He was a war hero there and back here, he was just a normal guy,” he said.
Overall, the students agreed that taking part in this study abroad program was a great experience and would recommend all students to follow their footsteps and broaden their horizons.
“I have gone on three of these trips over my four years at Mercyhurst and I truly feel like these were my best experiences here,” Marcellin said. “I truly think that these trips push you in ways you wouldn’t know or expect, but they have been one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Likewise, both Brodfuehrer and Harper agreed that the trip was an amazing experience and that studying abroad has not only allowed them to live new and unforgettable experiences, but it has also helped them create new bonds with other students as well as a growing appreciation for other cultures.
There was also a trip to Guyana during this time. This trip was focused on service work.
The first few days on the trip, the students toured different areas. They then chose where they wanted to do work. This was either in a hospital, school or soup kitchen.
After a day of working, the students would go to the boys orphanage and play games with the orphans. They would also sometimes have a speaker after dinner.
There was a lot of value to the students involved on this trip.
“The way they treated one another was also really cool,” senior English major Allie Schweiger said. “It was a very polite culture. It was very cool to see. It was a really eye-opening experience. It made us aware of the privilege we have here.”
The students were shocked about how different the culture is in Guyana compared to the US.
“It’s a third world country. so they have limited resources, they don’t have a lot,” junior Human Resource Management major, Rachel Sallach said. “They are always in need of money. They are always in need of stuff. But they don’t worry. They have this amazing faith in God that what they need is going to come.
“That was really different because we live in a culture that if you aren’t worrying, we aren’t doing it right.”
The Guyana trip aligns with Mercyhurt’s core values, students observed.
“This trip fit really well with the Mercy values. A lot of what we saw was affiliated with the Sister of Mercy or run by them in Guyana.” Sallach said.
It was an experience Sallach and Schweiger will never forget, they said. They encouraged all students to go to Guyana.
Any student who might be interested in partaking in a study abroad program at Mercyhurst can find information regarding how to apply, funding and travel preparation on the Study Abroad page on the Mercyhurst Hub or by emailing the Study Abroad office directly at email@example.com.