Posted by Julie

Spring break is a lovely invention: a week-long break from school in the middle of the semester when all you really want is a break from the homework and a reason to put off those end-of-semester projects. Even when studying abroad in France, spring break looks like the promised land. In response to all of the exasperated sighs that sentence received: surprise! Yes, we’re studying abroad in France, and yes, that is really awesome, but it’s still studying for Georgia Tech classes. And though the motto is “never get tired of travelling,” you can certainly get tired from travelling.

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A patriotic drawing on a whiteboard in the student lounge at GTL in the week before winter break. It has not been confirmed whether the theme was inspired by the looming break’s freedom from academic responsibilities, though.

Now, you might say, “Julie, it is way too early for a spring break. It isn’t even spring!” And in both statements, you would be correct. This was, in fact, our winter break. (We had two winter breaks, because we’re cooler. Pun intended.) France has a winter break, instead of spring, earlier in the semester.

No matter its name, many people chose a location that qualified more as a spring break – opting for warmer temperatures. The majority of students went on a variation of Italy itineraries – whether southward, northward, and even with Greece sprinkled on the end for some. Many routes intersected in Rome in the middle of the week, so there was a rather large concentration of GTL students roaming the streets. Others went south to Spain and Portugal, taking in the cost – and some ventured even as far as Morocco, flying down to spend three days in the desert.

There were also many who chose the snow over the beach: Norway and Denmark were popular destinations, especially after the 1€ flights to Oslo were advertised by Ryanair for just a few hours. With castles and fjords and more, there was much to see, though the northern lights were a bit far. Many people started in Eastern Europe, touring Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, and other cities, then jetting down south to join in for the last segment of other trips.

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A map of Italy in the Museums of the Vatican.

Now, you might begin to understand the madness that was planning out nearly a week and a half of travel while handling classes, homework, and projects. After several weekends of travel and significant research, many people are realizing that there are some places it just takes longer to get to, and this was the prime opportunity to realize those distant dreams.

The best and worst part about traveling at GTL is certainly that everyone is excited to see everything. This may sounds strange – why is that a bad thing? Let’s roll back to that italicized word: everything. There are millions of places that one could go, and many people are trying to squeeze all of the highlights of Europe into one semester. In trying to accommodate everyone’s dreams, we ended up sacrificing some things.

It’s best to keep things in perspective, though: we’re traveling Europe. The craziness was overshadowed by the immensity of our then-current situations: on the water of the Grand Canal, overlooking the city of Florence, under the shadow of the Colosseum, and on the coast by colorful houses tucked into the mountainside. Everyone came back from winter break with glory stories and starry eyes – so all of the planning and all of the sacrifices were worth it.