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Youngest Alumni Tour Europe

For many new college graduates, traveling abroad after receiving their diplomas is part of the rite of passage into the "real world." Eleven members of Northwestern's class of 2007 explored Europe in style as part of the Northwestern Alumni Association's European Tour last June.

The new alumni were part of a group of 22 college graduates who visited 11 European cities in 19 days -- or 23 days for those who chose to extend their trip to include Greece. Rather than of roughing it by backpack and sleeping on the tour bus, travelers enjoyed the comfort of first-class hotels and the free time to see sights and take in the nightlife.

"It was the most incredible trip I could ever imagine," said Lauren Greenwood (C07), a communication studies and history double major who had never been to Europe. "In 23 days we saw more than most people see in a lifetime."

Accompanied by Jeremy Wingerter, the NAA's associate director of students, career services and young alumni, the travelers began the tour in England. "It took two days in London for every single person to feel like they had made 20 new close friends," said Jordan Kwok (McC07). "There's nothing like a sturdy English lager to make people comfortable and talkative!"

Travelers took little time to sleep, especially in Paris, where they did their best to see as much as possible in just three days. Not only did they explore the collections at the Louvre and the sprawling Palace of Versailles, they climbed the Eiffel Tower at night and saw the twinkling light show that illuminates the landmark on the hour.

From there they took in a colorful cabaret show at La Nouvelle Eve, across from the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, and later sampled local nightlife at a nearby disco bar.

At each city on the tour, the group's travel director prepped the recent grads with funny stories, a brief history and a highlighted map. After a short tour and demonstrations of local art or activities, passengers set out on their own. While the group took in many tourist sites, this wasn't a typical alumni tour. In Amsterdam they explored the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and the Heineken Experience, a former brewery. Curious travelers also passed through the city's famous red-light district. "We had to walk through it just to see it," said Brian Klesh (C07). "It was outrageous."

In the Austrian Alpine district of Zell am See, travelers went whitewater rafting and biked up mountains. "I think I used the word 'stunning' more than I ever had in my life," Greenwood said of Zell am See. The snow-capped Alps surround the town and a small lake, creating an incredible scene. "We felt like we were closer to the clouds and sky than ever before."

The whirlwind tour continued with stops in Germany, including a Rhine River cruise, before proceeding to Italy, where the travelers rode gondolas in Venice, received a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI in Rome and made lasting memories in Florence.

"We spent each evening in Florence drinking wine and watching the sun go down over the city from the roof of our hotel," said Kwok. "On Katie Wright's [WCAS07] birthday we decided we would celebrate by having a picnic dinner on our roof with a feast of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, bread, wine, wine, more wine, some sparkling wine and cake. It was a marvelous picnic."

For more information about the NAA's 2008 European Graduation Tour, please e-mail or call 847-491-7987.

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European Graduation Tour travelers navigate rapids during a whitewater rafting excursion in Austria.Courtesy of Adventure Outdoorsports Service
Young alumni travelers at the Coliseum in Rome ...Photo by Jeremy Wingerter
... and on a gondola ride in Venice.Photo by Jeremy Wingerter