BY NICK SISTI
Students with a love of art, history and travel will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in all three as part of a pair of trips being offered to students at the County College of Morris.
From March 8-18, CCM students will embark on two trips: one to Paris and Barcelona, as well as an art-based trip solely to Paris. The Paris-based trip has been coordinated by CCM art history professor James Adkins.
“It’s really about exposing the students to another culture, a world capital,” Adkins said. “I’m really excited to share that with them. In addition, they’ll be able to see many of the art pieces we’ve gone over in class in person. We’ll be going to the Nostradamus Museum, the Louvre, the opera house, and Versailles.”
An influx of demand for the March excursion has driven a second identical trip to be booked for this May.
“I studied abroad in Italy during my junior year of college,” Adkins said. “I think that the profound impact of going somewhere like this and being immersed in the culture… it’s hard to measure how much of an eye-opening experience it can be. It can be intimidating not being able to speak the language, but you can really have some great interactions and experiences when you’re outside of your comfort zone.”
Craig Pilant, history professor at CCM, is hosting his seventh trip with CCM over spring break, in conjunction with EF College Study Tours, which will spend three days in Paris and nine in Barcelona.
“The main driver for this trip is Spain, however I’m hopeful that students will get a good flavor for Paris’ culture as well,” Pilant said. “The students will get a chance to see a different side of Spanish life, as we’ll be visiting a few smaller towns in addition to the cities.”
Similar in style to Adkins’ Paris jaunt, much of the time in Spain will be spent exploring its artistic quarters.
“Largely, a lot of the emphasis is on history and art” Pilant said. “There’s an evening we spend in Flamenco, and we’ll be visiting three museums focused on Spanish art going all the way from the middle ages up until Salvador Dali.”
When considering checking yes to a trip of this magnitude, a breadth of concerns can arise, either financially or emotionally.
“Students very often will look at the trip and say ‘this is too much, this is just too big for me,’ or they’ll have some kind of fear about going overseas,” said Pilant. “But you can’t let that fear stifle you. A very important part of travel is that you’re saying yes to life.”
According to Pilant, this particular venture is unique due to the high amount of returning travelers.
“I went on the last trip to the UK and Ireland, which was a lot of fun,” said Annamarie Luongo, a communication major attending the Paris and Barcelona trip. “When we all came home, we found out that this trip was going on and we were all like ‘we should go!’ I’ve always wanted to travel to France and Spain, so it’s such a golden opportunity to just like snatch it up and go. I’m especially excited to finally see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, as well as the Louvre.”
Some students have enjoyed Pilant’s trips so much that they continue to attend even after graduating CCM.
“I went on the 2013 trip to Greece, Athens, Delphi, Italy, Florence and Rome,” said Zack Blackstone, a CCM alumnus. “I didn’t know anyone when signing up but I made a ton of friends.”
Even though the trips do not offer academic credit, students have found ways to tie it into their studies.
“I think this trip should very fruitful academically,” Blackstone said. “I studied a lot of French literature throughout my education, so I’m excited to see where they lived their lives and gained inspiration for their works.”
In addition to artistic and cultural ambitions, some are excited to connect with their heritage.
“My whole dad’s side of the family is from Spain, and I’ve always wanted to reconnect with that piece of my family culture,” said Sabrina Alvarado, a communication major.
When traveling to a foreign country for the first time, one’s mind will likely be populated with a range of hopes and, sometimes, fears. For Alvarado, the best option is to go in with a blank slate.
“I don’t want to sound like a pseudo-philosopher or anything, but I feel like expectations can breed unpleasant emotions,” said Alvarado. “If I expect to specifically get anything out of it, then what I actually do end up getting out of it probably won’t be as good. I just want to get there, come back safely, and figure out everything else in-between.”
Alvarado said that although she does not embark on her journey anticipating anything in particular, the one thing she can be sure of is a feeling of fulfillment from achieving a travel goal.
“So many people have approached me since I’ve decided to go on this trip, and they’ve said ‘oh, I’m gonna travel as soon as I’m done with this.’ Or ‘I’m gonna travel as soon as I retire’,” said Alvarado. “They all tell me how jealous they are of me for being able to do this, but I say that if you’re someone who has any desire to travel, you won’t feel fulfilled until you go for it.”