Final Reflections from the Students

Jun 03, 2011

T. S Elliot once said, "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." To me this quote is perfect for this Leadership experience. The reason why is that we stepped away from the text books and gained real life examples through a global perspective. In fact the perspective I took from this trip was more valuable than any other I have taken due to the fact that we set our privilege aside and helped better the lives of our classmates and the needy. Though I loved the service projects and what they stood for, it is the people that truly made the trip for me. Simple interactions on a bus, tram or even at the shelter we worked with is what made concepts I had only read about hit home. For instance you really pick up on the fact that no matter where you are from in the world emotions are the same. To see the struggle on a face from a country that does not have the opportunities we have in America makes you think. We have it so easy here and I feel that we lose sense of our values as global citizens. We do not think about the struggles that go with day to day living because we all have cars, televisions and huge supermarkets right around the corner.


Around the corner is where the trail comes into play. Simply going off the main street gives you so much insight to their culture. One example was when I ventured into a small shop in an Artistic district outside of Budapest. Inside were these handmade children's toys that were so creative and put concepts to reality through visual and hands on techniques. No video games. They challenged the primary child's brain to prime it for later learning. As an Elementary Education teacher this meant so much to my leadership concepts. These simple toys were priming young children for greater understanding of all concepts which in return would be useful in science methods and visualization of reactions that are not always visible. One example was a baby doll. It was a simple handmade doll in a dress and braids. When you flipped the skirt up there was another dolls head in a white bonnet and the outfit underneath was a night gown. In fact while I was walking on the streets around the cities I did not notice a single child indulged in a game boy.


Indulging in peace is the main thing that truly gets your inner leader's attention on this trip. Everything is at a slower pace in Europe and it makes you slow down and appreciate the simple joys of life. One of these simple joys is being you. Self-development is the most amazing part of this trip. Going in I thought of course I will change I am seeing things like Auschwitz and new foods. It is more than that. It is realizing how close you become with your group, how privileged you are and how you can personally make a difference. I am personally still working on my personal mission statement but I did come to peace with myself. Thank to this Experience that ESU gave me I am going out into the world as a powerful women. Colors have been added to my world and tastes have expanded my horizons. My brain now has set a picture of the sun setting behind a mountain on earth. To the world it may sometimes look like a sunset but I am a mountain. I am strong, beautiful and will leave my mark on this world. I am a place waiting for others to explore and see the real me. To me a sunset is more like a promise that there will always be a tomorrow. It is a sign that God has a path for me and I need to listen. It is a piece of art that I perceive as a reward for doing my best and being me. It is a reflection back to me of my inner self. It took this trip to help me understand this and now when I look at this back at this trip I am glad I made the trail I made. 

-Jess Brown


I am a global citizen. I know that there is so much more to life than what goes on in Emporia, Kansas City, Kansas, and the United States. I am aware of what the human race has been through and I pledge to do all I can to not let horrible things like the Holocaust happen again. I also know that I am only one person and there is only so much that I can do, so it is important to realize while thinking globally is critical, I can also do so much through acting locally. I have learned about leadership and life more in the last 14 days spent in Europe that I have in the last three years of my college career. While listening to lectures and reading books are important, I now truly believe to be a great leader and citizen, studying abroad and being emerged in the global community is the only way to grasp on to the big picture. I know I have personally grown so much over the past few weeks, and I think that everyone in our group has grown and developed into stronger leaders. The group had a lot of fun times together, but we also spent two days giving back to the world and that is what I will always remember. The group came together and worked so hard for other people, people we have never met; it was really amazing to see how much passion we all had for the service projects. Our group is joined at the soul forever, because of the things we witnessed, and the challenges we overcame together. This trip empowered the group, and empowered the individuals in the group on a personal level. I know I am empowered to stand up for what I believe in more than ever now. I am also empowered to be a global traveler. I can’t wait to explore the world and learn more every day.

-Alice Christian


This trip has had different leadership styles stand out. Yet during the entire trip one leadership role stood out, Transformational leadership, shown through our instructors Mary Shivley and Taylor Relph. Transformational leadership can be approached that causes change in individuals and social systems. It creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders. One of their goals in taking us abroad was to help us understand and develop into better leaders. By bringing students together who might not have ever interacted together on campus, and by putting us into situations where we needed to depend on one another. That need for one another help us learn of different leadership styles and perceptions on the certain situations.  I know one of the major learning objectives, I got out of this trip was to really ask questions about a situation before stepping up to make a quick judgment that evolves the entire group.Without Mary and Taylor’s drive to transform students into better and stronger leaders through the study abroad program, I am not sure I have had an opportunity to learn from such a great but different group of friends.

-Will Hohmeier


The Global Leadership course has changed so many things about my life.  Studying abroad is something I have always wanted to do and I am glad that I had the opportunity to go to Europe with this amazing group of people.  I learned so much about myself and grew in such a positive way.  During those two weeks we spent studying the culture, eating different food, and seeing the amazing history that was all around us.  We got the opportunity to see and do so many things that most do not get the chance to in their lifetime like Auschwitz, working on one of the oldest monasteries in eastern Europe that now is home to 6 orphans, Habitat for Humanity in Gliwich Poland, and seeing the amazing places these countries hold. 

If you are ever given the chance to be so lucky as to travel abroad open your mind to everything there is to offer.  Don’t hold yourself back and listen to the people around you.  I am proud of the improvement I made while I was there and wouldn’t change anything about this trip.

-Gerri Sprecker


This trip was one of the best experiences of my life.  Through all of the things that we did on this trip it helped me get a new outlook on life.  Before we went on this trip I had three main goals that I wanted to try and work on throughout the trip.  The first goal was to try and learn as much of another culture as I could.  Throughout this trip I believed that I did this.  I tried to not be the ugly American that many Europeans see.  I tried learning the basic forms of language from each country that we went to such as; hello, goodbye, and thank you.  My second goal was to work on my patience with others.  I believe that I made a big improvement.  At times there were many things that bothered me, but I was patient and they ended out coming out okay.  I also used patience when dealing with people that were getting on my nerves; throughout the trip and spending 24/7 with each other we were bound to get on each other’s nerves.  I feel that I handled this well throughout the trip.  The last goal that I had was to make a difference and try and make an impact on some of the lives of the people in Europe.  We were able to do this through the two service projects that we did.  The first one was the restoration of the monastery and the second project was restoring a homeless shelter.  By doing these projects we helped make the lives for children and homeless men better. Overall this trip really made an impact on my life, and really showed me how lucky we have it here in America.  It makes me appreciate what I have more, and not take what I have for granted.

-Bo Moddelmog


I saw and accomplished a lot during my study abroad experience. I saw communism and the holocaust first hand. Concurred three countries, confusing public transportation, and 3 different languages. We helped to change the lives of 5 orphans and helped to make the lives of some homeless men better. This trip really opened my eyes to how privileged I am, and how I can do a lot of little things to make a major difference in lives of people who are less privileged than I am. After returning home I began to go get rid of things that I don’t been or want. I believe this is because of what I saw and did while in Europe. 

I will use the knowledge and skills gained to benefit the ESU community. As a Resident Assistant I deal a lot with foreign exchange students. Having been a foreign exchange student I am better able to work with them because I know what they are going through. This was the trip of a lifetime and one I am happy I went on. The things I saw and did will remain with me forever.

-Jordan Yulich


I cannot even find the words to explain how life changing this experience has been. I had very high expectations for this trip and those expectations were exceeded. There were many personal things that I hoped to work on and address during this trip and with the support of the group I found myself conquering my fears and making an effort to grow. I had the opportunity to gain awareness about a variety of different issues and ultimately I have learned more about myself. There were times on the trip where I became frustrated with others and sometimes even myself. Every situation that I encountered on this trip has opened my eyes and caused me to see the bigger picture. I have said many times that I like to think of myself as a work in progress and I always want it to be that way. I can honestly say that I am not the same person as I was before this trip. I have learned to be aware of my own flaws, habits and principles. I am a very sensitive person by nature which has been both good and bad in my life. As a result of my sensitivity I tend to build walls and close myself off from people.  I have closed myself off many times before in a concrete fort when in reality I’m nothing but a sandcastle. Once I finally allowed myself to be vulnerable on the trip and open up to the group is when I found myself making the most progress. As a result of this progress I’ve made I find myself dealing with things differently now. I'm more patient, more honest, and more forgiving. I have learned that everyday something happens that affects me, whether it be relationships, events, something I see, something I hear or something I feel. Mary Shivley along with the different experiences in Europe has taught me how to handle situations effectively to prevent miscommunication. I have learned to never compromise the most important aspects of conflict resolution which is to listen first and seek to understand. There are still some things that I want to change but I have accepted that I am far from the person that I want to be. With that being said, the change that I am striving for will be a gradual process that I need to be dedicated to. Since being back in the United States I see everything differently. My outlook on life has changed drastically and I find myself embracing the beauty in simplicity. I think one of the biggest lessons this trip has provided is understanding and awareness. I have had the opportunity to examine just how privileged I am. While restoring the monastery, visiting Auschwitz and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity I have realized how much i take for granted in my life. I've come to realize how blessed I am and how many opportunities I have been blessed with. Since being back from Europe I have had ample time to analyze the trip over and over again in my mind. I have replayed it endlessly and in the memories I have found solace. Ultimately what I have learned transcends this experience, space and time and it will stay preserved in my mind forever. I have attained skills and tools to better myself as a human and leader. I want to thank both Mary Shivley and Taylor Relph for whole heartedly giving our group two weeks of their lives to help us grow as leaders. In closing, I want to say that this is me. I hope to one day look back at this journal and immediately see the progression and changes I have made.

- Amir


What an experience studying abroad has been.  In the minor, I have had the opportunity to teach, inspire and learn.  Who would have thought, I would have the opportunity to travel abroad with 11 great people.   The relationships and experience were worth every penny and outweigh any cost tremendously.  I would recommend it to everyone.

Prague was beautiful, defiantly like the New York of Europe.  We had the opportunity to serve the community, tour historical sites, and really bond as a team.  This was the first country of our adventure and hard to let go of as it came time to leave and transfer to Budapest.

Budapest felt like a great night life city.  The restaurants were set up primarily outside, and it was perfect weather to tour the city.  The country of Hungary and city of Budapest has great memorials honors past Kings, this explained to me how much power means to them.  However, it also gave me the sense that they appreciated higher power and respect.  My favorite site of the city had to be the hot baths.  They were not only relaxing, but had an awesome whirlpool which to go around in.  This is an example of an experience that must be tried to be understood.

Lastly, we toured the great city of Krakow, Poland.  Krakow is memorable because not far away was the devastating disaster of Jewish history.   We took a whole day to tour Auschwitz as it rained from up above.  This has to be the gloomiest of our trip, both for the sites and weather.  Overall though, we learned and took in so much over a 14 day span.

-Adam Wright

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