October 07, 2021
Foreign Travel Hones Independence
It’s been said: “It takes a lifetime for someone to discover Greece, but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her.” Just ask Pat Schwab ’22 who traveled solo to the Hellenic Republic this summer to hone his photography skills through his Martin Nicholson Scholar stipend. “I was lucky to have this absolutely incredible experience.”
As a budget-conscious traveler, Schwab meticulously planned his trip, making sure his dollars would go a long way. “It takes a lot of planning, especially when you’re trying to be cost-efficient and traveling on a budget. You can’t just choose the first location or hotel that pops up on a Google search,” he said. He presented the School with a specific itinerary for them to approve his stipend on his trip, and his parents, too, were on board. Schwab acknowledges that his parent’s buy-in was partly contingent on his paying for the trip as well as his older brother’s positive travel experiences. “If my older brother had this idea at my age, they would have said ‘no’, but now that he has traveled they felt more comfortable with the idea,” he said.
Schwab ran into some difficulties navigating the Greek language and alphabet when asking for directions, but he admitted most of his navigation hiccups came stateside when he traveled from his house in Connecticut to New York City to JFK Airport. “Navigating the subway system was one of the most difficult aspects of the trip,” he said, a hard-learned reality most New Yorkers would tend to agree with.
While at KO, Schwab learned about Greek history, theology and government, but he was thrilled to see the country firsthand and the remnants and ruins of this ancient culture. His favorite place to tour was the volcanic island of Santorini, ambling down the winding cobblestone street with vendors plying their wares. There were some key places he intended to visit, Rhodes and the national parks up north, but the extreme temperatures soaring to 108 and raging forest fires prevented him from doing so.
One of the biggest lessons learned from his trip abroad was self-sufficiency. “By traveling alone, there’s a lot of time to be insightful and to be with yourself. When you’re going to bed, you are alone and you wake up alone. You don’t have friends or family there. You’re put in this position where you have to meet people. I learned a lot about myself by just having to go out and meet people by force of necessity,” Schwab said. Schwab was aware of the negative stereotypes of American travelers abroad and was sensitive to be a positive example. “There were some jokes at being American, but there wasn’t any ill will. There are some people who have stereotypes of what Americans are like. There were plenty of people that I met who never sat down with an American and had a real conversation or dinner with one. Their impressions were stereotypical, as I would expect them to be. I wanted to be the opposite of that, assimilate as much as I could, and be respectful of their culture,” he said. While staying at a hostel, Schwab met and befriended a “fantastic group of Irish guys straight out of Dublin.”
Schwab feels that KO’s emphasis on developing independence in its students was a tremendous factor in his ability to have a successful trip. “Not getting lost and showing up in the middle of Greece – that’s the independence that KO tries to nurture in all of their students. It’s a great life skill that I further developed in Greece,” he said.