Springfield, Ohio — Once again exemplifying the commitment of Wittenberg University's award-winning faculty to education in the global community, Professor of Psychology and Director of the University Honors Program Jo Wilson accompanied 14 honors students for a week-long student abroad experience in Sweden and Finland.
Wilson was joined by class of 2012 honors students David Rea from Rocky River, Ohio; Chelsea Rockwell-Ashton from Fort Wayne, Ind.; Lauren Harris from Mansfield, Ohio; John Mohr from Reynoldsburg, Ohio; Samantha Swanton from Saginaw, Mich.; Deanna Fink from Dayton, Ohio; Jonathan Pozderac from Mount Vernon, Ohio; Peter Jensen from Indianapolis, Ind.; Danielle Springer from Spearfish, S.D.; Katie Johnson from Springfield, Ohio; and Emma Crosby from Rockford, Mich.; Sarah Murray, class of 2010, and her brother Caleb, class of 2013 from Dublin, Ohio; and Nick DelGrosso, class of 2010 from Marysville, Ohio. The traveling party used Stockholm, Sweden, and Helsinki, Finland, as the base of operations in each country.
In Stockholm, the group visited the Stockholm Museum, the National Museum, Stockholm's Modern Art Museum and the Vasa (sunken ship from 1628) Museum. Some of the students went on a day trip by boat to Birka, an island with a large, restored Viking settlement, and others visited some of the city's large, historic cathedrals.
"Some students were disappointed that there was not enough time to visit the Nobel Prize Museum," Wilson said. "They all enjoyed shopping and dining in Stockholm, but for most of the students, the favorite part of Stockholm was Gamla Stan ('Old Town'), dating back 1,000 years with its narrow, winding cobblestone streets lined with great shops."
Katie Johnson has traveled to Italy, Germany, Switzerland and France, but she said this trip was entirely different.
"The Scandinavian countries seem to have a different feel to them than western mainland Europe does," she said. "The people were always dressed well, not the jeans and tee-shirts most of the students brought to wear. The city was beautiful – each island of Stockholm offered something new."
The group traveled from Stockholm to Helsinki by an overnight excursion on a ferry that better resembled a cruise ship, measuring 10 stories high and carrying 2,400 people and 300 cars.
"The students noticed a number of cultural differences between the Swedes and Finns," Wilson said. "They also found that the Finnish are more friendly and warm than the Swedes, and that the Swedish language is relatively easy to read but Finnish is impossible."
In Helsinki, the students and Wilson visited cathedrals, the university and went sight-seeing before returning to Stockholm, where they met Swedish exchange student and fellow honors student Hanna Larsson, class of 2012, and her brother Simon, who serves in the Swedish military.
They traveled by train to Uppsala and were treated to a private tour of Gamla Uppsala, site of an ancient burial ground from a pre-Viking era, about 2,000 years old, by Karin and Kent Larsson, parents of Hanna and Simon. The Larssons also hosted dinner for the group following their tour.
"My favorite part of the trip, by far, was our last day," Johnson said, "(The Larssons) arranged a tour of the historic part of the city (Gamla Uppsala) and showed us around the "new" section (it is still about 400 years old).
"At the end of the day, she and her brother invited us to their home where they had a traditional Swedish meal prepared. Their hospitality was quite overwhelming."
Wilson, who received a stimulus grant from Wittenberg's First-Year Experience program to cover plane and ferry fares, has been taking honors student abroad in the summer since she became director of the program, and she announces the trip at the first of the academic year. The students who are most interested meet with her several times to make plans, and then they send out a general invitation to all honors students.Last year, the Wittenberg traveling party also flew to Stockholm before taking a train to Copenhagen, Denmark. Wilson tells the students the options and lets them decide where to go and what to do."The experiences, both culturally and educationally, are worth so much," Johnson said. "In the end, it's the friendships made with the other students and the memories shared. I am so glad I went on this trip and thank Wittenberg for offering me such a fantastic opportunity."
Written By: Phyllis Eberts