What We Did This Summer: Three Public Relations Students Take on Europe

Posted Sep 06, 2022

First leg: Paris to the Loire Valley, France

By Amanda Radke ’24

When I walked into COMM 1500: Public Relations (PR) Principles my first semester at Otterbein, I never thought I’d be spending three weeks on a European road trip with Dan Steinberg, the course instructor, and two other students. Over three weeks, we explored France, Italy, Switzerland, Monaco and the Vatican. We studied and experienced history, PR, international communication, art, and architecture — all while demolishing tons of delicious patisseries.

When the trip was first advertised in November 2021, we thought there was a slim chance of us going to Europe. But on June 22, at 6 a.m., we landed in Paris. We spent three days exploring the Louvre, l’Arc de Triomphe, le Tour Eiffel, les Champs Elysees, and eating our way through Paris.

Some things we quickly learned: there are a lot of smokers in Paris and the food is delicious. Pain au chocolate (croissant with chocolate) is a common breakfast pastry found for less than deux euros ($2) five minutes from anywhere. We also discovered Parisians do not wake up early or stay up late. 

The purpose of this trip was to diversify our communication education by experiencing and applying it in various cultures. Since all three of us are PR majors, we met with PR firms in Paris and Milan.

In Paris we met with Francois Ramaget and his team to discuss working with a global audience. His two interns then filled us in on what it takes to complete university courses, internships, and acquire entry-level positions in France. Since PR is not taught in French universities, to specialize in public relations, students must attend a special, private university costing a whopping 8,000 euros per semester ($8,150). Our Parisian friends couldn’t understand how anyone in the U.S. affords secondary education.

From there we travelled to Louis XIV’s Versailles palace. First, we hit the best farmer’s market to buy food for our pique-nique, then we were off to the golden gates. Le chateau de Versailles held true to its reputation: huge and extravagant. If France ever went into deep debt the gold from just one of the rooms would pay it off and then some. There was a fireplace that could fit three whole trees.

A lot of the gardens reminded me of Wonderland: so vast and easy to get lost in. I’m surprised you don’t hear more stories of royals getting lost in their own grand palaces and gardens.

The next morning we made our way to the American cemetery in Normandy. And pushing forward we paralleled the English Channel to visit the Abbey and tidal island of Mont Saint Michel. Before a bridge was built to the island in 2014 it was only accessible from the mainland during low tide.

The Abbey is often mistaken for Hogwarts but it actually inspired the kingdom featured in Disney’s Tangled. The town itself looks as though it hasn’t been touched since the Renaissance. Although things have probably changed, its history has been kept alive.

And finally, we drove to what turned out to be my favorite French city, Tours. It would be categorized as a “college town” here in the states with students hanging out along the river, an outdoor square with 15 restaurants and places that stayed open past 9 p.m. The atmosphere was one I found most like home. Around Tours we visited three more chateaux with beautiful gardens and spires.

From there we headed south to the sea!

Chateau Outside
Chateau Gardens

Second leg: The Mediterranean to Roma

By Grace Weidenhamer ’23

The clear, blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, coastal towns below the cliffs, 2,000-year-old infrastructure, and a lot (and I mean a lot) of pasta. To be honest, one article is not enough to capture the beauty, history, and culture of the south of France and Italy, but hopefully I can briefly immerse you into this spectacular corner of the world.

A word to the wise: if you sleep the whole way, a nine-hour drive feels like nothing! Our journey from Tours to Nice, France, was worth it. Our first night in Nice was spent at a restaurant right on the Mediterranean Sea beach with fresh seafood options — where I indulged on a delicious platter of chicken fingers and fries.

A second word to the wise: if planning a relaxing beach vacation to Nice – invest in a foam pad to sit on, unless you are a fan of sunbathing on rocks that have been baking in the sun.

Nice was sort of like a mini-vacation within the vacation. Sun, saltwater, and breathtaking views overlooking the coastline. It’s fun to swim in the Mediterranean! We also visited Monaco. But now it was time to get back to reality: continuing our journey into Italy.

Our first stop in the country of carbs was Pisa, Italy — a little underwhelming if you ask me. Nevertheless, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a must-see if you are passing through. Our short stop in Pisa was followed by our arrival to the first destination, Florence, Italy.

When your professor hypes up the architecture in Florence, you better believe him. After visiting a few châteaux in France, the Duomo in Florence and the surrounding buildings are a sight to behold. Michelangelo’s David is cool, too.

So this is the part of the trip where I retired the chicken tenders and replaced it with Italian pizza. We crowned Florence top prize in the “Best Pizza” competition, because we made it ourselves! At the Diadema Cooking School in Florence, we learned how to make authentic Italian pizza and gelato from scratch. Best. Day. Ever.

After Florence, we took a quick detour to the quaint hilltop town of Cortona in the Tuscan region of Italy. It was a great little pit stop to overlook the Italian countryside before heading to Rome.

Rome was like no other place we visited in Italy. Walking down one street, we would pass modern, urban buildings, alongside architecture from 2,000 years ago! Not to mention, Rome had some of the best food of the whole trip, especially the gelato! Oh si, there was also the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican with the Sistine Chapel, and Michelangelo’s Spanish Steps.

We learned from our cooking school in Florence how to tell if gelato was authentic or not. Surprisingly, not a lot of gelataria sell real gelato. A final word to the wise: if you can’t see the gelato on display, it’s the real deal.

Como Three
Dinner On Beach

Third leg: Milano and Lago di Como and Switzerland and Paris

By Payton Kaufman ’24

Our departure from Rome took us north to the capital of fashion: Milan. The best news was that we were headed north for the remainder of the trip, and – therefore – cooler temperatures.

While Milan was primarily a business stop, we were able to see the sights in our short stay in the city. First on the list was the iconic cathedral, the Duomo di Milano. We also felt it was important to immerse ourselves in the fashion culture with some quick shopping.

The business portion of the trip consisted of a meeting with an Italian PR firm. My favorite part of the meeting was that it began with a trip to a nearby cafe for cappuccino… can we adopt this in America? Jokes aside, the meeting gave us a lot of insight into PR in Italy and its business culture. What was the firm’s top client? Intel!

We wasted no time heading to Lake Como, Italy; after all we needed to relax after our taxing business meeting. The twisty roads heading into Menaggio (the town where we stayed) meant it won the “Most Picturesque Drive” prize.

Lake Como turned out to be an underdog favorite for me. I had not anticipated how beautiful it was. The crystal-clear lake surrounded by the green mountains which were speckled with the most colorful Italian towns.

The best way to see Lake Como is by boat. Either take a ferry or a private boat to travel to the various small towns. We took the ferry to visit the town of Bellagio (which the hotel in Las Vegas is named for).  In Bellagio we had the greatest surprise when we stumbled upon a high dive into the lake.

After we recharged in Lake Como we drove to our final country of the tour: Switzerland. It was very different from anywhere else we had visited. Everyone spoke German, which was a tough switch from French and Italian. We also met very different people, mainly hikers and backpackers exploring the Alps.

 The highlight of Switzerland was our journey up the mountain Jungfrau. It took planes (gondolas), trains, and automobiles (buses). The view at the top was worth it, though. It felt like we were on Mars!

From Switzerland we took a long drive back to Paris. It was a full-circle moment to return to the place we had first landed, three weeks earlier. Our main reason for returning to Paris was for Bastille Day, France’s Independence Day.

While in Paris we returned to our favorite spots, mainly l’Arc de Triumph and les Champs Elysees. On Bastille Day we watched the incredible parade (mostly on television since it was so crowded along the parade route). We enjoyed our last moments of the unforgettable trip in the place where it began. Incroyable!

26 Suisse

See photos of our incredible study abroad trip!