UNI students' eyes opened to life in Europe

Students outside Buckingham PalaceTwenty-three University of Northern Iowa students explored four fascinating countries for one month in Europe this summer.

The students visited the U.K., Hungary, Romania and Greece to fulfill requirements for their capstone course, Environment, Technology and Society taught by Catherine Zeman, UNI associate professor of health, physical education and leisure services.

According to Zeman, the course focused on developing a basic understanding of the connections between personal health, economic status and the environment. The class learned these connections through hands-on outreach work with Romani groups, visits to historical sites, direct interaction with Romanian students and guest lectures.

"I wanted the students to develop a multifaceted and experience-based understanding of the multiple determinants of our health and how important it is that we assure the highest standards of heath and well-being for all of us," Zeman said. "To do that, we have to respect both the environment that nurtures us and other people."

"One of the things I like to explain to the students is that there are no 'throw-away' people, just like it is not possible to ever really 'throw-away' a chemical substance or waste material. In some way or another we are all connected and the things we do come back to us."

Exploring Bran's Castle in RomaniaThe students were able to explore a wide array of interesting and remarkable sites while in the U.K., Hungary, Romania and Greece. A few examples include visits to Mt. Olympus, the Aegean Sea, Bran Castle (also known as Dracula's castle), salt mines from Roman times in Romania, the Acropolis, Hadrian's Library and the temple of Zeus.

"Europe is a beautiful, exciting place," said junior health promotion major Kiley Lisk. "Each different country we visited had a unique experience to offer. The cities -- Budapest, Cluj and Athens -- were busy with activity."

The students also received hands-on experience with locals. The students studied right beside Romanian students and worked directly with the Romanian people.

"I loved the Roma community outreach program in Pata Rat," Lisk said. "I also enjoyed being by the Aegean Sea with the beautiful mountains in the distance."

Zeman said her favorite part of the trip was seeing a change in her students. She loves to see joy and happiness on the students' faces while they experience new things. She also enjoys the fact that the students develop a deep appreciation for everything they have in the United States and how they can translate what they have into additional good in this world.

"enjoying dinner during their last night in Paralia, GreeceThey realize that they can make a real difference," she said.

Lisk said she had a great experience in Europe, and she encourages other students to study abroad.

"I learned that there is a whole new world out there, very different, but alike in some ways to my own," she said. "Definitely take the opportunity (to study abroad), the world is waiting."

On the home page:  Students tour the city of Budapest.

Top: Students in Catherine Zeman's Environment, Technology and Society capstone class stand outside Buckingham Palace in London.

Middle:  Students tour Bran Castle in Romania.

Bottom: Students enjoy dinner during their last night in Paralia, Greece. They learned Greek traditional dancing at the dinner.