Where in the World was VCU? Backpacking through Europe

Meet Katie Nolan, a VCU alumna that spent part of her summer backpacking through more than 10 cities in Europe. Nolan was able to visit cities that were rich in narratives and culture, perfect for the history degree she received this past May. Find out more about Nolan’s experience, including a visit to Anne Frank’s house, in this edition of “Where in the World was VCU?”

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Can you start by telling me your name, year, and major?

Katie Nolan, graduated Class of 2016, history

Where in the world did you go this summer?

I backpacked through 13 cities. I started in Italy with Rome then Florence and Milan, Zurich, Switzerland, Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Luxembourg  City, Luxembourg (because of protests we couldn’t go to Belgium or France that day so that was our next best option), then Paris, France, London, England, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland and Dublin, Ireland. Then we came back to the states and stayed in my hometown in California and visited Las Vegas for another two and a half weeks.

What made you decide to go backpacking through Europe?

It’s always been my dream to travel the world and never look back, to immerse myself in other countries, and, by backpacking and staying in hostels, I knew I would meet new amazing travelers and experience the world in a materialistic free environment, where I left my huge wardrobe and makeup collection at home to just experience the world with just me, a backpack and my dreams. I felt as if Europe was a good way to start.

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Was this your first time traveling on your own? Was it scary? Do you have any advice for anyone traveling for the first time?

This was my first time out of the country. I went with one friend, so I felt safe. I have had experience with the worst kinds of people and have seen the absolute worst in people so I wasn’t scared; I was aware. The best advice I can give to anyone is to pay attention to your surroundings. People will try and steal your wallet left and right and you just have to know what you are doing. Be wary of people and think about your actions!

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What was your favorite city and why?

Paris and Rome are tied. They were both so magical and rich with history. Dublin is tied as well. I was raised Irish so it was amazing to experience Ireland after hearing the stories. This was an amazing trip for my degree.

Do you have a most memorable experience?

Visiting Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. Being where she was during a time in history that was so devastating. As a history major I felt like everything I knew didn’t become a reality until I stepped into “her shoes.”

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What was it like to actually backpack through Europe? Was it more difficult than you thought it would be?

It was more exhausting than I thought it would be. It took a toll on my body traveling so much and constantly being on the go and you miss the luxury of tons of clothes and access to laundromats.

Do you wish you could do it again? Or would you want to go someplace different?

It was the trip of a lifetime and a learning experience so I would repeat it and experience it over again, but not change anything since I learned so much from every mistake and every missed train.

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