BY STEPHANIE BRADY
Professor Craig Pilant is not just a history professor at County College of Morris. He is also extremely worldly and has spent many years traveling. Pilant spent his first semester of his senior year in college at a school in Rome and has taken many trips there during his life. Now, for the past several years, he has offered the opportunity to as many students who are interested in seeing different parts of the world as well.
Since 2011, Pilant has been taking students on trips to explore Europe. In the past, students have gotten the opportunity to explore parts of England, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Ireland. This year, students who are interested will be able to take a grand tour of Italy from March 12-21.
“My favorite part of the trip is getting everyone to the airport on time,” Pilant said. “At that moment everyone is so excited, it’s really palpable how excited everyone is.”
Although the school does allow Pilant to set up the trips through his department, they are not official CCM events; they are planned through the company Education First College Study Tours. Traveling through this company gives the students a lot of benefits, such as hotels for housing, airfare, bus transportation, breakfast, half-price dinner costs, museum admissions, insurance for baggage, and a packed itinerary.
Most importantly, local tour guides are given and a full time tour director is assigned to the group for the whole trip to handle the logistics, offer guidance and handle any challenges the group may face. This is all included in the $3,800 cost.
“Italy is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich countries in the world, and this trip is a great chance for me to visit it,” said Victor Dziegielewski, a CCM graduate and current student at Rutgers University. “I am most looking forward to falling in love with the Italian cities and people.”
Pilant hosts at least three sessions with the travelers to acquaint them with a lot of things that they are going to experience being in a foreign country. They include learning about customs, what to expect in terms of money and dress code, and both the positive and negatives about what it means to be an American traveling overseas. He wants to help students feel more comfortable traveling and gain more knowledge about the culture they are going to experience.
“I decided to go on the trip to Italy because I love the history of it, and the art, music, and writing from the Renaissance amazes me,” said Sydney Stavis, a fine arts and drama major. “I also love the architecture, so I’m dying to see the Colosseum.”
The tour director will take the students and chaperones on formal tours each day of the trip. Every student will go on the same tours together, so that they experience the same places and no one leaves feeling like they missed out on seeing something amazing.
Not only are students going to have the opportunity to see the Colosseum, but they will also get to see many more places, including the shrine for St. Francis, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Square, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Trevi Fountain, all in the major cities of Assisi, Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Pisa, and Rome.
“The idea is that they go, they experience, they’re changed, and they come back wanting more,” Pilant said.
Pilant’s previous trips have had such a great impact on students that he sees repeats every year. For example, communication major Michele Ciz went on the Anglo-Irish Fling last March, and now she is ready and excited to go on this year’s Italy trip.
“I decided to go on this year’s trip mainly because the last trip just left that huge of a mark on me,” Ciz said. “When you actually step foot into these countries, you instantly fall in love.”
After the tours are over for the day, the cities are there for the students to explore. With their free time, students will have the opportunity to experience Italian life on their own by shopping, visiting more museums, taking Gondola rides, or eating some pizza and Gelato.
“I always tell my students who go on this trip that they will never ever be the same again,” Pilant said. “There is something about traveling overseas, especially to Europe, that transforms you and your perspective on the world as well as your role in it.”