Meg Clawson, a sophomore studying psychology, is an experienced world traveler and a participant in the Humanities and Philosophy Department’s European Religious History tour.
“I love going and seeing it all,” Clawson said. “I love experiencing it for myself, rather than reading about it.”
Clawson’s first trip abroad was to Japan with her mother, who hosted Japanese exchange students in the Clawson home for six years.
“I’ve grown with, every other year, a Japanese student in my home,” Clawson said. “When I finally got to go to Japan myself — I know it’s cliché —but it was a dream come true.”
Clawson’s trip lasted ten days. She and her mother spent most of their time in Tokyo.
“I got there, and I never wanted to leave,” Clawson said. “I loved the people. I loved the culture. I got to go to Tokyo and go to the Tokyo Tower. I got to go to all these different temples and shrines and things like that.”
She said she was impressed by the people’s conduct at the temples and shrines.
“I loved how in Japan they were very spiritual,” she said. “It’s an important part of their life. It’s not anything they are ashamed of, by any means. I loved that — if it’s sacred to them, they let you know.”
On Clawson’s next trip, she went to England, Scotland and France. It was her first of two trips to those countries and lasted ten days.
“In our hotel, we had a traditional English breakfast,” Clawson said. “That’s porridge, eggs, bacon, toast and normally, tea.”
She said she visited Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London and Kensington Palace.
She took a train to Scotland and saw Edinburgh Castle.
Clawson’s most recent trip was her most extensive in both time and distance travelled. She was part of the European Religious History tour sponsored by the Department of Humanities and Philosophy in 2010.
Clawson said the trip involved a gro of about 50 students who sometimes travelled together and sometimes went off on their own within the cities they visited.
The touring gro spent 21 days visiting England, Italy, Vatican City, Austria, Germany and France.
In Vatican City, the gro attended mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church building in the world.
Clawson said it was especially unusual when tourists were taking pictures of the worshippers during the service.
After Rome, the gro took a week-long bus tour, stopping at locations in Germany and Austria.
“We got there on Saturday night and went to church the next day,” Clawson said. “It was just a little tiny branch in Innsbruck. That was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had spiritually.”
Clawson said the tour gro filled most of the chapel. She said the branch president expressed his hope that one day the little branch would always be as full as it was that day.
The gro then visited the Swiss Alps, Munich, Nuremberg, Rothenberg and Heidelberg.
“We were in the heart of German culture, which was so fun,” Clawson said. “Our first night in Munich, we went to a beer house for dinner. They had lots of chicken and food, not just beer. They very much love their alcohol, but in that little beer house, the people there were the nicest people we had met on the trip.”
Clawson said her gro spent a few days visiting German landmarks and spent one night sleeping in a castle there. After Germany, the tour gro entered France.
Clawson said they visited Metz and Paris.
They entered Notre Dame, saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo in the Louvre and visited the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and the palace at Versailles.
“By the end of the trip, Gothic cathedrals all kind of look the same,” Clawson said. “I’d seen so many. Every place we went, we went to a Gothic cathedral. But Notre Dame, of course, is different. It was beautiful. The stained glass windows were incredible.”
Clawson said she was repeatedly impressed during the trip by the mere fact that she was really in Europe.
“It was kind of cool to be laying on the grass in the palace at Versailles thinking ‘I’m in Versailles; I’m at the palace, laying in the gardens.’”
Clawson said that by the end of the trip, many people in the gro were feeling homesick.
They remedied this with a trip to an American-style restaurant close to Notre Dame with English-speaking waiters.
Clawson said the tour finished with a trip to Disneyland Paris.
Clawson said everyone should travel if they get the chance. She offered a few tips.
“Pack as little as you can,” she said. “It’s miserable to have a lot of stuff with you. You’re going to want to buy things; you’re going to fill your suitcase with that.”
She said people preparing to go to foreign countries should study the cultures of the places they plan to visit.
“Look their cultures and see what they do,” she said. “In Japan, if you walked in with your shoes on, that would have been offensive.”
Clawson said travelers should be street-smart when in foreign countries.
“Whenever you travel, there are pickpockets,” she said. “A lot of people will raise their hands to take pictures, and their bag’s just right there. You need to have a hand on it at all times.”
Clawson said she would like to travel to China in the future.
“If you have the chance to travel, take it,” she said. “The more I travel, the more I feel that I need to see.”