By Alexa Hernandez

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to travel with the School of Public and International Affairs to Verona, Italy, through their Maymester study abroad program to Verona. Little did I know that this trip would change my life for the better. We traveled to several cities together as a group such as Florence, Verona, and Rome, and I was able to travel to other places such as Milan and Munich, Germany, with some of the friends that I made on the trip! As a rising second-year, I was one of the youngest people on the trip. I was nervous, but very excited to learn about Political Psychology and Comparative Politics in the height of where most of these countries that we were to be talking about were.

In my Comparative Politics class, taught by the man and myth himself, Dr. Bullock, we talked all about Italy’s voting and governmental system and got to experience these first hand! During one of our weekend trips to Milan, I saw a poster on the wall showing all of the governmental figures that we had just learned! In Political Psychology, Dr. Bankert talked to us about voting procedures, how leaders think, and how people think too when it comes to participating in local and national elections. Being able to see these concepts firsthand was amazing.

On the weekends, my friends and I were able to explore the city of Verona, as well as take trains to other parts of Europe all by ourselves! Some groups traveled to Nice, France, Switzerland, and Austria, our group decided to go to Munch, Germany, per Dr. Bankert’s suggestion. In Germany, we met students from Canada and ate traditional, German food in an outside Biergarten. There were people in lederhosen everywhere. Additionally, we stayed in a hostel central to Munich, so we were able to walk around the city center and see the downtown areas. From Munich, our group took a bus to Dachau, a concentration camp turned museum. Dachau was one of the first and largest concentration camps put in place by Nazi Germany. Now, the remains of this place serves to teach those of tomorrow. Our group of eight traveled to Dachau and were struck by the sheer magnitude of the place. There were large buildings where the bunks were held, as well as large fields where the prisoners worked. Personally, the concentration camp was heartbreaking. I know we all learn about them in school and when learning about World War II, but never did I think that I would see what happened first hand. Traveling to Germany with my friends was not only a fun and exciting thing for us, but also an educational and eye-opening one.

We were only in Italy for 6 weeks or so, and I know this is going to sound cliché, but I definitely made friendships to last a lifetime. Our group, the “Duomies,” still keep in touch with one another almost daily. We all met and became friends at the Duomo (a large, beautiful church) in Florence, hence the name! Going to Italy with SPIA was my first time going abroad, but it definitely won’t be my last. I’m hoping to travel to Cortona next!