By Olivia Cappoli
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Having the chance to travel across the pond to Europe is one thing – being able to travel with a good friend and teammate makes the experience more worthwhile. For senior Alex Aycock (Jonesboro, Ark.) and junior Heather Roberts (San Jose, Calif.) of the Holy Cross volleyball team, that is exactly what they got the opportunity to do. By studying abroad through a program called AIFS at the American International University in London, England, they were able to travel to five different countries, including England, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Italy.
Aycock and Roberts recently talked to GoHolyCross.com to fill us in on their experience studying abroad in Europe.
GoHolyCross.com: What made you decide to study abroad this summer?
Heather Roberts: For as long as I can remember I've wanted to study abroad. I absolutely love traveling and exploring new places! Every city has so many fun things to see and do. This program gave me the perfect opportunity to see a lot of countries that I have always wanted to see and it also allowed me to learn about the art and architecture of each place.
GoHolyCross.com: How long did you stay in each country?
Roberts: We stayed in each country anywhere from 3-6 days. We stayed in London for six days, Amsterdam for three days, Paris for six days, Lucerne for three days, Venice for four days, Florence for four days, and Rome for four days. But we also got to take a couple of side trips while we were traveling between countries. On these lunch stops we went to Siena and Bruges.
GoHolyCross.com: What has been your favorite part about studying abroad?
Alex Aycock: That's a tough one, I do not think I can narrow it down to just one experience or for that matter even one city. I saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, the Eiffel Tower, Rijksmuseum, Notre Dame, the Alps, St. Mark's Square, the David, the Mona Lisa, the Vatican, the Coliseum, and much, much more. Participating in a traveling study abroad class allowed me to explore most of Europe's highlights in an educational format, which was an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity.
Roberts: I absolutely cannot pick my favorite place that I stayed! Every country was so unique and beautiful. But if I had to narrow it down I would say that it's a tossup between Amsterdam, Lucerne and Venice! Venice had the best pizza and all of the canals were really gorgeous. They had water taxis that were pretty much just a free boat ride to get to see all of Venice and the beaches there were stunning! Amsterdam and Lucerne were also both beautiful. They were both very outdoorsy. Everyone was either walking their dogs or riding their bikes or just lounging around outside.
GoHolyCross.com: What is a typical day for you while in Europe?
Aycock: Going non-stop! We would wake up early and either work out or go straight to breakfast and then we were off on a tour. After our lunch break in the afternoon we would go on another tour and/or have class. From early evening on we were on our own to explore the city. Needless to say I logged countless miles in my sandals this summer while exploring Europe.
GoHolyCross.com: Does traveling abroad with a teammate make the experience a little easier?
Aycock: Traveling with Heather was a blast!! Heather has always been a good friend but this experience brought us even closer together. We decided not to room with each other so that we could meet people from other schools, which turned out to be a great decision. This allowed us to form a fun group of friends who we will remain in contact with for years to come. There was even talk about a 10 year reunion, fingers crossed!
GoHolyCross.com: What has been your best/most exciting experience while studying abroad so far?
Aycock: We went from one big, busy city to the next. So, when we took a day trip to Monet's garden it was literally a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and seeing what inspired Monet's genius works was surreal.
GoHolyCross.com: What experiences/lessons will you take from studying abroad?
Roberts: I will be taking a lot of lessons home with me from study abroad. First of all I have learned how to navigate both on foot and on the public transportation system. From many experiences abroad, I have found that getting completely lost can often be the best way to explore a city and see things that you normally wouldn't have seen. We found a lot of hidden gems from getting lost! Another important lesson that I learned was try everything because you never know what you may like. At restaurants I made sure to order at least one thing that I couldn't pronounce. Granted sometimes it wasn't the best, but it was usually most definitely worth it!
GoHolyCross.com: During your down time, have you been doing anything to prepare for the upcoming season?
Aycock: We know that what we do during the summer will reflect how we perform in the fall. So that means even though I was abroad I was still fully committed to getting my work outs in.
Roberts: Alex and I made sure that we got our workouts in! A couple of the hotels that we stayed at had gyms, but some of them didn't. When there wasn't a gym we would make sure that we would workout however we could. For instance, in Paris when there wasn't a gym, Alex and I did an ab workout in front of the Eiffel Tower and then ran a couple miles alongside a canal.
GoHolyCross.com: As a senior, what are you most looking forward to accomplish this season?
Aycock: I'm looking forward to having a fun season, as well as furthering the program and winning some games. I want to help make the 2013 season one for the books. Also, I'm looking forward to helping the five freshmen adjust to life at Holy Cross. I know when I came in as a freshman the seniors were very welcoming and helped ease my transition into college life.
GoHolyCross.com: What are you most looking forward to about this upcoming season?
Roberts: I'm looking forward to being back with the team, my home away from home. We've all been working really hard this summer and I can't wait to get back on the court with all the girls!