Flagler students live the European dream on study abroad trip

By Jenna Carpenter | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Last May, Dr. Butler and Dr. Riggs took a group of 33 Flagler College students to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. For 12 days, 33 students and two professors took to the streets of Killarney, Dublin, Belfast, Derry, Edinburgh, York and London, seeing what each city had to offer and having once in a lifetime experiences along the way. Students on the trip can now say they were on the Tower Bridge in London with a group of 1.25 million to watch Queen Elizabeth II sail by on the River Thames for her Diamond Jubilee, and some can even say that they shook the hand of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Climbing on Ring Forts, kissing the Blarney Stone, seeing the GPO of Dublin, walking through the streets of Belfast, seeing the cranes that built The Titanic, touring Derry, the site of Bloody Sunday, walking through the remains of an underground medieval city, attending High Tea and gawking over the crown jewels of England were some of the highlights of the trip. However, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the leadership of Dr. Butler and Dr. Riggs.

While the students were excited for the trip across the pond, Dr. Butler was dealing with the logistics of the tip. It took over a year to plan, and Dr. Butler did his own research to make sure everyone was going to have an amazing experience abroad.

“The reason for my planning is to maximize every minute in the foreign country,” Butler said. “We didn’t do anything because it was cool. There is a purpose for everything.”

For example, he knew that the group was going to be in London during the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, so he made sure that they had a spot in city center. Throughout the excursion, Dr. Butler emphasized organization and communication. Since the group was always on time for everything, and the trip went smoothly, they were able to go to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and take a tour of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, places that other college groups don’t usually get to visit.

Dr. Butler has been leading study abroad trips since 2003, and the Ireland/England trip was his 9th trip overseas. He says he likes taking students abroad because it’s “giving students the chance to experience what [he] didn’t in college.” He also likes to see student’s reactions when they see something for the first time that they thought they never would get to see. Though he does admit his “holy cow” moment on this trip was in London, watching the fireworks after a celebratory concert for the Jubilee from Buckingham Palace outside the hotel, Dr. Butler cannot choose his favorite trip.

“Nothing sticks out as most valuable; it’s a valuable and different experience every time,” Butler says.

Stephanie Garrison is one of the 33 students who traveled with Dr. Butler and Dr. Riggs.

“I’ve always wanted to travel abroad, especially to England. The England, Ireland, and Scotland trip was really once in a lifetime. It will never happen again.” Kelsey Peryam said, “It was a lifelong dream of mine to go to Ireland, and what pushed the trip into a ‘must go’ was that Dr. Butler and Dr. Riggs were leading the trip.”

Even though there were 33 people on the trip, everyone was able to make it personal, and everyone had their own favorite parts that made their experience unique to them. Taylor Koerner’s favorite country was Ireland, particularly Killarney and County Cork. Bert Manchik agrees.

“My personal favorite country was Ireland, particularly Killarney and Dublin,” said Manchik.

Garrison and Peryam, however, fell in love with Scotland.

“Scotland was like a hidden gem,” Peryam explains. “I wasn’t expecting to be so in awe with the place. I expected it to be a quick stop on our way to London; but instead, I got to go to the most beautiful country, where I will be visiting again soon.”

Everyone each had their own experiences which made their tour rewarding.

“The most rewarding part of the trip was taking in the nightlife of Ireland. In particular by conversing with the locals about the Troubles, and hearing their personal stories of what it was like then and what it is like now,” says Manchik.

Garrison adds, “[In London], I got to witness an historic event that was being broadcast around the entire world.”

However, these 33 people were lucky. Study Abroad doesn’t come cheap, but it can be done, and the experiences are all well worth the juggling of finances.

“It’s worth every penny,” Koerner said. “I saved anything I could get my hands on. I used Christmas and birthday as a way of getting help from relatives. It is worth the struggle.”

Garrison agrees.

“Take a loan, ask family members, apply for scholarships, take on extra shifts at work. A study abroad will be one of the most educationally and culturally rewarding experiences of your life. Once you start, you feel like you can’t stop.”

Peryam adds, “It is worth more than any begging you have to do. This experience is more than I could have ever asked for. I made new friends, saw things that I could never have hoped to see, and learned more than anyone could have ever imagined in a hands on way.”

It was not always fun and games, however. In preparation, students had to take at least one class taught by either Dr. Butler or Dr. Riggs. Throughout April and May, quizzes and essays were due every week. There was talk of teaching on the road, but Dr. Butler disagreed.

“I can give a lecture on Ireland here. Why would I lecture on Ireland when Ireland is out the door?” Butler says.

Ireland/England 2012 study abroad was a success. However, it could not have been done without Dr. Butler’s careful planning and painstaking research. As a member of the group, I think I can speak for everyone in expressing my gratitude in his hard work and leadership. It was the two weeks spent overseas that made my summer one to remember and made me realize how jaded my American perception of the world is, and opened my eyes to how small human beings are in the world

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