Alex Brinker (Class of 2017) writes of his first experience out of the country.


This has been the first time I have been overseas. Ever. I was not really sure what to expect. So I’m going to  start at the beginning. I have never been outside the US so my mind was rattling as we approached the Canadian border. That was probably the easiest part of traveling. When we got to Italy, I had no clue what was going on. I know there were all these passport checks and customs stuff, but I have never had to do them before. I just followed the person in front of me and pretended that I knew what I was doing. Then I walked outside the airport.

DSC_0016It was hot. I followed the man who controlled our destiny for the next two weeks, Alessio Balduini. He was the API representative who went everywhere with us and taught us about the Italian culture. From that point on the trip really began. People drive like their life depends on it in Rome. It’s very scary the first time you are in a car with someone. I thought it felt like I was being kidnapped and the cops were chasing us. But during that time I had the chance to look out the windows. The whole place felt different. This was a very very old place that I entered. This place has survived more than most places. There was this palpable awareness that flowed into me. I was in Europe.

The culture was also interesting. The Italian people were definitely different from Royal Oak people Alessio helped me see this. He explained to me that people weren’t afraid to be physically close to one another, like the double kiss greeting that I saw several times. The majority of the people also seemed to be very respectful, more so than you would usually find in the US.

Rome was very different from Florence, which I found interesting. Rome was a more Renaissance kind of place, where there was a lot of culture and art, where Florence was more medieval. They both were amazing places to go. I personally liked Rome more than Florence, because there was more art and culture and history. It also had all of those well known monuments. I absolutely loved the Coliseum. It signified what I love about Rome, which was engineering and culture, and more importantly, it was still standing. Florence had its perks too. I really liked the Medici family and how it was such an influential part on the city.

DSC_0083There were many things that we went to go see while we were here. My favorite is probably the Vatican. There is so much history and beauty in one place. You could see the time and effort that was put into the making of such a place. The Vatican held some of the most powerful people in it, and I was there. It was overwhelming. When we got to St. Peter’s Basilica at the end, things seemed to fall apart, in a good way. I know some people from my group broke down in tears after seeing it. I was just dumbfounded by it. This sense of purity just seemed to emanate from this place. I don’t practice Catholicism much anymore, but this was a holy place, and it was inspiring. This was a place of good. I was kind of sad to have to leave.

Now I’m sitting on a Canadian train on my way home. I am sad to leave, but at the same time I am a little happy. It was a beautiful place to be , but I was getting homesick. I feel obligated to thank the man who put this together and I hope he keeps doing it to show the world to others as he has to me.

Thank you, Steve Chisnell.



Italy in Retrospect

by Steve Chisnell time to read: 3 min