I think we’re all in agreement here; the absolute worst part of any trip abroad, aside from being the victim of some sort of mugging, is the early wake up time for whatever miserable flight or ferry journey you have to catch at impossible-o’clock. Never the greatest start to your holibobs, but often by the time you’re on the plane/ferry/locomotive, the excitement catches up with you and everything’s great again. Before our module trip to Germany during reading week, my friend and I spent three hours prior to our 2am coach alternating between deliriously watching The Road to El Dorado and pinching each other to stay awake. Somehow, staying up is way more difficult when not on a night out. Luckily, the first leg of the coach ride from Norwich to Dover was an opportunity to catch up on some snooze time.
This was our first trip as university students to a foreign country. Beyond this, the only short breaks I’d had as part of a big group were during secondary school, where curfew was at 9pm and teachers would happily bugger off and get pissed while we tried to figure out the Spanish for ‘I would like two big vodkas please’. Of course, the days would be filled with trips to various art galleries, monuments and other places of interest, but the social structure was clear; we were most definitely supervised schoolchildren, and the teachers were happy to be there, but the looks on their faces at more trying parts of the trip would suggest that they would much rather be sipping sangria on La Rambla than traipsing to Barcelona’s busiest tourist destinations with 33 sweaty teenagers in tow.
University trips are a different story. First of all, despite being given very informative tours of every historical spot and museum we visited, we also had a lot more freedom to explore the sites for ourselves. The staff that accompanied us also encouraged questions, no matter how bizarre – I remember asking ‘why is everything blue? It doesn’t match gold’ and getting a sincere answer in return. We treated the lecturers as valuable sources of information, and in return we were treated like actual adults.
‘Freedom’ is the key word here that I’d like to emphasise. Staff even stayed in separate accommodation to the student group, allowing us to engage ourselves in whatever we wanted in the evening, be that going straight to bed (there were a lot of fast walking tours during the day), going out for a meal, or experiencing Southwestern Germany’s varied nightlife.
There was also a smaller group of us, and we all got on splendidly. At school, perhaps, you go on a trip for the opportunity to go to another country and mess about with your mates. This is true of university to a certain extent, but it felt a lot more focussed.
Students were asking lots of questions, and there was a genuine interest in every artefact we surveyed, and every medieval building we craned up our necks at.
So, I’ll finish by making one thing clear – if you’re offered an opportunity to go on a trip as part of your module or school during university, take it.
Almost all of the students who didn’t go on the trip expressed regret at not having done so, and beyond the obvious benefits of visiting a place with four experts, it’s a great chance to get to know other students and drink alcohol in a completely different country.