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Budapest, Hungary June 18, 2012

Posted by Savannah Andersen in Travel Log.
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Throwing my body weight stair by stair to counteract the dragging weight of my suitcase, I slowly emerged from the pedestrian tunnel and into the misting rain. Covering my camera bag with my powder blue Eagle Rock, Wisconsin sweatshirt, I trudged onward down the cobblestone path in the direction of our first hotel. Inside the surprisingly clean and well decorated lobby, I gave my roommate and good friend Allison Smedberg and exhausted look as we snagged our key from our group leader Taneisha and snuggled our moist bodies against Hope Skalak and Savannah Ashby in the shoebox sized elevator.

Budapest, located in Hungary, is separated into two sides by the Danube River. At one point in time each side represented a separate city and although it was united in 1873 each side of the river still retains a unique feel. We were staying in Pest, the more modern side of Budapest

Our room was not spacious, but it was more than I had hoped for with its clean white sheets, fluffy pillows and well lit bathroom. With just a few minutes to spare before our first welcome dinner, which we attend on our first night in each city we visit, Allison and I quickly changed out of our Nike shorts and tennis shoes and were about to begin the monumental task of taming our travel frazzled hair. I studied the outlet adapter that I had packed, turning it over several times in my hand to find the side labled “EU.” I had researched and rehearsed for this moment, hoping that my voltage conversion and wall adapter preparation would prevent catastrophe.  With a skeptical grimace I plugged it into the wall and to my relief, nothing burst into flames. I began confidently securing my hair dryer into the socket when a “snap” and a flash of bluish light emerged from the wall. Shrieking, I jumped back from the danger and stood frozen for a few moments before erupting into a fit of laughter. Despite my forethought and expensive dual voltage hairdryer, I had forgotten to turn the tiny function dial to the correct setting. My first act as a traveler abroad had just failed miserably and I couldn’t help but chuckle at all the mistakes that were surely to to come during the next five weeks.

All fifty students, two professors, two chaperones, and the newest member of our clan Baloo, the coach driver, sat ravenously at our tables staring at the foreign goodies laid out buffet style in the middle of the room. With the go-ahead signal, we stampeded to pile our white plates high with goulash, mutton chop and eggplant tarts topped with caviar. After cautiously trying nearly every delicacy, we all retreated to our rooms to sleep off the six hour time change and travel exhaustion.

Early the next morning, the breakfast room was filled with other guests from the hotel and various morning foods that looked just as alien as dinner had the night before. Our first lectures were held On Wednesday, May 22 at 8:30 in a conference room down the hall. Dr. Cheijka, our art professor, spent an hour showing us all introductory slides describing the city layout, basic architecture, and important artistic monuments and museums that we would see later in the week. Next Dr. Ulrich held a two hour session prepping us for the symphony orchestra concert that we would attend on Friday.

Our professors turned us loose to grab lunch on our own in the city before meeting at St. Stephen’s Basilica at one o’clock.  St. Stephen’s is a Roman Catholic basilica in the center of Pest named after the first King of Hungary.  Inside the walls of the church, decorated with over fifty kinds of colorful marble, a relic of St. Stephen is housed. Inside a golden reliquary toward the back of the church is the Holy Right – the supposed remains of King Stephen’s shriveled right hand. Hundreds of locals and visitors come each year to pay their respects for the revered Hungarian king and Catholic saint. After visiting the church, there were no events formally scheduled for the afternoon and evening. Although we were all biting at the bit to explore the city during our first real night abroad, fatigue physically restrained us to our hotel rooms for one more night.

On Thursday morning we met in the hotel lobby and made the cross city trek to the base of Castle Hill which was settled as a military stronghold in the thirteenth century after a Mongol attach. The royal Hungarian court also moved to the southern end of the overlook around the same time to receive the benefit of military protection. Climbing the steps toward the top of the hill, we would occasionally sneak an aerial view of the city from between the heavy trees. Huffing and puffing, we finally reached the highest point in the city of Budapest. Our first stop was the Museum of Music History which detailed the life of Franz Liszt, a 19th century Hungarian piano prodigy, composer and teacher. While atop Castle hill we also saw the Royal Palace, St. Mattias Church, the Turul Bird sculpture, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the statue of Hussar General András Hadik.

After lunch we descended the stairs once more and waited for the massive Eurobus, bearing an American flag in the back window, to make its way through the hot-wheel sized streets to pick us up. Charismatic Baloo took the roundabout on two wheels while waving with one hand and continuously pressing the horn with his other. Healthily embarrassed, we made our way to the Palace of Arts where Cheijka described our project for the semester. He told us that throughout the trip we would be creating imaginary art galleries: one personal, one public/historical and one challenging.  From each real art gallery we were to visit, we were to pick three pieces of importance to us individually that fit into the categories. After choosing the perfect paintings, we were released for our first real night on the town.

Hope, Savannah, Allison and I made our way back, flung our touristy backpacks into our hotel rooms and immediately headed out in search of some local cuisine. After filling our stomachs with gnocchi and goulash we began our exploration through the urban jungle. As the sky dimmed and the streetlights began to hum with warm light, we foraged through the twisting paths, finding something beautiful and exciting around every corner. We covered several square miles as we snapped photographs in front of the illuminated Parliament House from across the Danube and took a stroll across the illuminated Chain Bridge under the stars.

Our final day in Budapest included a visit to another art gallery, the Szepmuveszeti, then some free time in which some of us decided to explore the sites of the north end of the city including Hero Square, the Bupapest Baths, and the local park. After heading home on the second oldest underground metro in the world we prepared for an exciting new twist in our schedule – our first concert! Dressed to the nines, the fifty-four of us met in the lobby at six-thirty for a tram ride to the Bela Bartok National Concert Hall. This Gothic cathedral style hall has outstanding acoustic qualities and is ranked among the top five performing centers in the world. Bela Bartok Hall also housed the largest pipe organ in Europe. After listening to several beautifully crafted and performed symphony orchestra pieces, our band of students departed for the most lively square in Budapest to spend some quality time together during our last night in the city.


A few lines composed above the Atlantic… June 18, 2012

Posted by Savannah Andersen in Travel Log.
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Blow off the eraser shavings

Let it hit me

My first year officially over

Mixed goodbyes

See you this fall….

Pack the car with luggage and friends


Jump out of a plane!

What’s the hurry?

But why wait?

Study hard

Art and music

Fragonard’s “The Swing,” Baroque, 1767

The eternal pendulum

Ancient Rome, Renaissance, Middle Ages, Romanticism

AWESOME professors

Ponder “why?”

Hugs kisses tears

I love my family more than words can describe

Jump on a plane

Tardy departure

A steep incline to cruising altitude

Plastic crinkles

I’ve never eaten with my elbows so close to my sides

Isn’t it funny that we are taught not to talk to strangers?

Kind, comfortable façade and conversation

I know there is more

I don’t ask

It seems everyone has loved and lost

Memory… A delicate spider web in the morning dew

Colors melt together across the sky


Now it REALLY hits me

Dr. Ulrich is right

We should always brush our teeth for two minutes

Clear head and cloudy eyes

The longest I’ve ever talked to Him

Life in one word?


A Jacket’s Journey June 18, 2012

Posted by Savannah Andersen in Travel Log.
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My name is Savannah Lanier Andersen. I was named after the coastal city in Georgia, which is where my two wonderful, wonderful parents Audrey and Bill met. I have a “little” brother named Jake, who is one of my best friends.  He is fourteen months younger than me and yet he is a towering six foot two. I was born in Creve Coeur, Missouri, which means “broken heart” although I call the small town of Cartersville, Georgia home.

I am now a rising second year studying Business Administration at Georgia Tech and at the beginning of  summer 2012 I am embarking on a journey throughout western Europe with the Oxford Study Abroad Program. The Oxford Program is an enriching, GT credit-bearing, twelve week travel and learning experience composed of a week of preparatory classes on Georgia Tech’s campus, five weeks of European travel, and six weeks of residential instruction at the esteemed Oxford University in England. Forty-nine other Georgia Tech students and I are taking an art history class and a music course while travelling together, then we will all take different classes that best fit our specific majors and personal goals once we arrive at Oxford.

During the week of preparatory classes at Georgia Tech we worked fervently to grasp the basic art and music concepts needed for the remainder of the courses, but we also had time to meet our new friends and our outstanding professors, Dr. Ulrich and Dr. Cheijka, who travel with us for the first six weeks of our time abroad. Now that the groundwork has been laid, we are packing up and getting ready to head into the travel portion of the trip.

Here are the cities we will visit:

Budapest, Hungary

Prague, Czech Republic

Vienna, Austria

Venice, Italy

Florence, Italy

Rome, Italy

Lucerne, Switzerland

Ghent, Belgium

Paris, France

I am SO excited for this opportunity and I am completely aware of how fortunate I am to have this experience. I’d like to thank everyone who has made it possible for me to participate in the Oxford Program – my parents, Georgia Tech, the donors of the Fleet Scholarship, the President’s Scholarship Program, and countless others who have undoubtedly played a role behind the scenes. THANK YOU!

Throughout the summer I hope to gain a renewed perspective and understanding of the world around me. I hope that my experiences with the Oxford Program will change me in such a way that I can return home and to school this fall a more educated and well-rounded person with more to offer my friends, family and community.