Tag Archives: travel

All Roads Lead to Rome

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 4 April 2018

For my second blog post of Spring semester, I decided to write about the differences in education system between my home country (the Netherlands) and the United States of America. It will be hard to emphasize those differences because some of the names and levels of education are not translatable. However, I hope this post will serve as a resource for High School students as well as OU students who are looking into a semester abroad.

Studying abroad has been the best decision in my life so far, which I hope everyone could experience! It widens your horizon. Studying abroad opened my eyes to several cultures and made it easier to communicate with people having different backgrounds. In school as well as in the work field, you will encounter people who have distinct believes and were raised in various parts of the world. In globalized times like this, I believe it is very important to understand those differences and respect one another.

That being said, I will try my best to explain the differences in education system that I experienced thus far. For example, at home we start off with kindergarten at the age of two up till four. When a child turns four, he or she goes to primary school (“basisschool”) up till twelve (grade 1-grade 8). At home, private schools are uncommon so most kids go to a local, public primary school at a walking distance of 5-10 minutes (yes my country is small, haha). 90% Of the Dutch elementary schools are part of the government and use the same teaching style around the same level of education.

When a primary school student reaches the age of 11 (grade 7), he or she is required to take a standardized test similar to the American SATs: “The Central End Test for Primary Education” (“CITO”). The results of this test in combination with another standardized test the following year (grade 8), determine what level of high school the student should do. Levels are directly related to above average, average, or below average test scores and the years one will be enrolled in high school (4, 5, or 6 years).

This test is also an important part of the decision to what high school one
would like to go since not all schools offer all different levels. The levels of high school are split up in three main levels:

  • 6 years of VWO (pre-university and
    research focused)

  • 5 years of HAVO (general second education, still provides entrance to university)

  • 4 years of VMBO (more technical, highest VMBO can continue to HAVO after graduation)

These first and third levels can be further divided into VWO-TTO (education in English), VWO-Gymnasium (focused on Greek, Latin and classical antiquity), VWO-Atheneum (basic), VMBO-T (entrance to HAVO), VMBO-basis, and VMBO-kader. The last two are focused on practical and technical education known as “technical schools” in the USA.



In our last year of high scool (“senior year”) we do a trip abroad with our class. I graduated high school with a VWO-Gymnasium degree, so we got to travel to Rome and experience all the ancient structures and art pieces we were taught about during our 6 years of high school!





Because of my Dutch high school degree and experience, the transition to a(n American) university was made a little easier than expected. Thus, use your opportunities to explore the world and become a sophisticated student creating for good!

Spring Break Trip to Slovenia

Veronica Ammer

Veronica Ammer,
Junior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 21 March 2018

In early January, my Spring break plans were the same as every year preceding: I was going home to see my cat. By the third week of the semester, I had a plane ticket to go on a cultural exchange to Ljubljana, Slovenia (the first j is silent and the second j reads like a y).


I’m not sure if it was the beautiful architecture, the fresh, flaky croissants or the unbelievably blue Adriatic Sea, but in just one week I fell whole-heartedly in love with Slovenia.

There were students from both Cru at OU and RealLife at OSU on the cultural exchange. We partnered with an organization called Speak Out Slovenia, which works with high school students to practice English speaking through meaningful, relevant conversation with Americans. A lot of our time was spent in classrooms, giving a short presentation and quiz about school in the US, answering any questions, and learning about Slovene culture.

The quiz tested the Slovene high school students’ knowledge of American high school jargon like senioritis, dance chaperone and senior superlative. The Slovene students taught us (the Americans) about their college entrance exam, the Matura, and flaunted that detention does not exist in Slovenia, among many other things.

During that week, we (the Americans) were divided into groups and met at three different high schools. The school I went to was called Gimnazija Šentvid. One of the major differences between American and Slovene high schools is when it comes to sports. Unlike in America, Slovene sports clubs are not affiliated with a high school or district. However, there are schools like Gimnazija Šentvid that offer classes for student athletes where they can train and condition during their school day.

Another big difference is that in Slovene high school a student stays with the same group of people throughout their day class to class with few exceptions except during senior year. This is very different from how American high schools operate where we have our own individualized schedules.

In addition to speaking with English class students in the schools, we also had after-school activities. On Wednesday, all the teachers in Ljubljana went on strike, so we took a day trip with at least thirty Slovene students to Piran, a coast town on the Adriatic Sea. We were split into groups with both Slovenes and Americans and sent on a photo scavenger hunt to see all the sights the lovely town had to offer.


Piran was my personal favorite. Looking out across the sea, in one direction I saw Italy and in the other Croatia. We climbed to the highest point in the town, where we could look out at the point and snap a picture of the terracotta rooftops and breathtaking horizon.

Our last day in Slovenia was spent at Lake Bled. The lake was nestled majestically in the frosted mountains. From a castle that loomed over the lake to the small island church located in the middle of the lake, it was like something out of a fairy tale.


We hiked higher and higher to take the best pictures and to try to capture the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Lake Bled was also a prized destination thanks to its authentic dessert shop that supposedly has the best kremsnita (cream cake) in Slovenia.


Overall, there was a lot to love about Slovenia. I hope I have the opportunity to go back and visit this beautiful country and the friends I made through Speak Out. This trip had a tremendous impact on me through immersive learning about another culture. Even though it was a break from class, it definitely was not a break from learning. However, when you are gazing across the Adriatic or enjoying a delectable croissant, it’s not so bad.

Spring Break in Nashville

Mollie Whitacre

Mollie Whitacre,
Senior, Computer Science

Athens, OH 18 March 2018

This past week was our spring break and I got the privilege of visiting my sister in Nashville for a couple days! It is, by far, my favorite city and I would love to live there one day.

When I arrived, we visited Broadway street for the night. Broadway Street is filled with giant bars and plenty of great country music. My favorite thing is walking down the street and listening to loud, live bands every five feet because each and every bar has live country music every night. How can you not love that?

We did some more sight-seeing over the next few days by visiting Centennial Park where the Parthenon is located and visiting the Gaylord Opryland.


The Parthenon is an exact replica of the original Parthenon located in Greece. This thing is massive. We got some cool pictures there looking like ants next to this structure.

The Opryland is a resort and convention center, but mainly a tourist attraction. They have three indoor “rooms” with shops inside them. I say inside with quotes because each room has either a river or pond in it with beautiful scenery everywhere. We loved watching a dancing fountain in one of the areas. My trip was amazing and I can’t wait to visit again!

Ohio Snowcats Take On Keystone

Daniel Riordan

Daniel Riordan,
Senior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 16 January 2018

Wintertime in Athens is always visually striking—the trees are bare, snow is everywhere (unless the sporadic 60°F day comes around)—and there’s always plenty to do outside within walking distance. However, Ohio University’s location in the hills of southeast Ohio also places it within driving distance of ski resorts Snowshoe Mountain and Seven Springs Mountain as well as a couple
hours away from Columbus’s Mad River Mountain.

When it comes to snow sports, my trip into the white snow and high elevation this winter was not to one of those places, but with many of my friends and peers to Keystone Resort in Colorado, facilitated by the local ski & board club, Ohio Snowcats.

Many Ohio University students take advantage of this Athens-area club to spend a week of our winter break in the mountains of a world-class ski resort somewhere in the United States, and I surely enjoyed the choice of destination this year.


For a heavily subsidized cost, my friends and I, as well as about 200 other Ohio University students had the opportunity to ski down some black diamonds and enjoy the views from 10,000 ft. up at this scenic mountain range two hours west of Denver.


Athens is a great place to be, but the opportunities Ohio University has presented me to travel to places and with people I would not otherwise have had the chance to take advantage of are the source of life-changing experiences and many fond memories for me.

The Great Outdoors

Andrew Noll

Andrew Noll,
Junior, Engineering Technology & Management

Athens, OH 8 December 2017

My entire life, I have been quite the outdoorsman. I attribute some of that to my parents who took us camping twice a year with several close families.

In addition to that, I used to go “creeking” and catch all sorts of animals. I would keep these animals and study them for a few days, feeding and caring to them as needed, then I would release them back into the wild.

I was very close to entering a major in bio or even environmental engineering. I do not regret my decision to chose engineering technology. However, in the future I could see myself getting into an industry that can work with or protect the environment.

As I’ve grown older I’ve moved onto different kinds of outdoor hobbies. I started fishing religiously, hunting, cliff diving, backpacking with my pup or even doing “man vs. wild” with my friend.

The two things that made me appreciate nature the most were hunting, and the man vs. wild camps where we went out for 3 days with just a pot, a bb gun, and two knives.

Now a lot of people ask how I could hunt animals yet love nature? Everyone has an opinion and I respect that. I am not here to argue why I believe hunting is okay, but I truly believe it has made me more in tune with nature and helped me understand its complicated beauty.

I might sit outside and freeze all day without seeing one deer, but I get an opportunity to study nature that non-hunters cannot experience. I learn about varieties of plants and animals. I understand weather patterns and how animals react to it. I see the delicate balance of the ecosystem, and the interaction between animals at its simplest level, in which no book can teach.

For example, something I see too often: chipmunks will chirp loudly and scatter into holes, then 10 seconds later a hawk will fly by. It is that sort of communication and realization of nature’s community that has made me enjoy hunting so much.

Whether I am hunting, cliff diving, hiking, camping, etc. nature has never failed to amaze me. At every turn, I will educate people on its importance advocate for its sustainability for future generations.

Here’s a short video I made about my love for nature and the outdoors.

Snowboarding in Colorado

Quinn Mitchell

Quinn Mitchell,
Junior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 3 December 2017

Around 5:00 pm on Friday, December 15, the last day of finals week this semester, my friends and I will start the 21-hour drive from Athens, Ohio to Keystone, Colorado. One of these friends is a fellow engineering ambassador, Dan Riordan.

Once we get to Keystone, we will be skiing and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains. This will be the third year that we take such a trip. It will also be the third year that I spend much of November and all of December impatiently waiting to be in Colorado. Although it does make it slightly harder to concentrate on studying for finals, this snowboarding trip is a great way to end fall semester.

I learned to snowboard in eighth grade, and since then I have tried to spend as much time on the mountain as possible. This became especially important once I got to college; spending a day or two where I’m only concerned about how much snow is falling each day is a great stress relief.

Snowboarding trips like this one are also rewarding because I get to notice myself getting better every year.

If the past two paragraphs have not already convinced you that I’m a big fan of snowboarding, I suggest you ask any of my friends, roommates, or classmates if I have offered to teach them to snowboard. I doubt you’ll get too many “no” responses.


Matt McKenzie

Matt McKenzie,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 29 November 2017

Thanksgiving comes at a nice time in the semester that allows most to head home and spend some time with their families while breaking up some of the work before finals week. Unfortunately for me, since I have been in college, Thanksgiving has been moved to my aunt’s house in Columbus as it was closer for me, and now my sister who goes to school in Indiana. Nevertheless, whether it is held at home or not, it is always a delight to get the family together,as I tend to not make it home very often, and enjoy a nice meal.

This year there was a new addition to the family in the form of a puppy whose name is Murray. This was his second time to my my aunt’s house and being about 8 months old at this point, he has only gained energy causing their older chocolate lab come headaches.

Following a few days at my aunt’s, I was able to stop by Cody’s house and spend a majority of a day there enjoying the nice weather and more great food. Cody and John were both first year graduate students when I was a freshman here and Cody became a close friend over the two years we were both here. Both Cody and John were key figures getting me involved outside the classroom with the Human Powered Vehicle Team here as they were the founders. It was a nice ending to the break spending a day with the two of them and the rest of Cody’s family.