Success stories by students in the Medieval Travel course

Over the years, many students who have joined me in this Medieval Travel course, have made great progress in their academic and professional careers. Here are a few examples:

Images from the 2023 trip (here, Arles (France) and Bellinzona (Switzerland):

Zack Bridge, June 10, 2023:

This trip is an opportunity to experience new cultures, develop lasting friendships, and create beneficial mindsets for the present. We focus on the material and literary history of the Middle Ages while appreciating the interdisciplinary nature of historical study. This journey pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is the only time you truly grow as a person. I have embraced a more open mindset toward new experiences and people that will undoubtedly serve me in my future endeavors.

Samuel Kramer, Nov. 15, 2021:

“I signed up for the Medieval Study Abroad Tour (MSAT) after taking Professor Classen’s “Eroticism and Love in the Middle Ages” course. Initially, my intentions were simply to get out of the US for the first time in my life and see another part of the world, but as time has gone on, the impact of this trip on my life has been undeniable. Growing up, I went to church every now and then with my family, but was always discouraged by the modernity of it. Sermons felt cheesy, and most modern churches would be indistinguishable from a university lecture hall. Additionally, I always hated history classes growing up. They seemed extremely boring to me, and I could never focus. MSAT completely changed my view on both of these topics.

Seeing the monuments that were built to respect and showcase the glory of God was unlike anything that I have ever seen or felt before. Gold-plated cathedrals covered head to toe in iconography with attention paid to the finest of details. Each time we would visit a new site, there would be a renewed sense of the blood and sweat paid by long-dead individuals to showcase something truly magnificent to the generations that would come after them. Though it sounds strange, there is a deep sense of awe that one feels when sitting in or viewing these monuments. There was a deep, unmistakable feeling within my bones each time we would visit a new Holy site. I have yet to feel it again. It is worth mentioning that I am not a devout Christian. I believe that you do not need to be one to feel what I felt during this trip. (Though it would be remiss for me to deny that I have slowly but surely been building my Faith since this trip, and this trip was undeniably what began this journey.)

From a historical perspective, it is a completely different ballgame to see these sites and learn about them while experiencing them. This is not you sitting in a history lecture, reading a bland textbook that nearly puts you to sleep. MSAT brings history to life and (at least for me) caused me to go from hating history to loving it. Since this trip, I have read more books on my own time about the Holy Roman Empire and medieval Europe. I now find these topics to be more fun and interesting than any video game that I have ever played. My renewed interest in history now goes beyond just the time period that we learned about on this trip, but I absolutely owe this interest to the MSAT.

Though I graduated in May 2020, I hope that in the future I will be able to either participate in MSAT again or retrace our steps on my own time. If you have the opportunity to participate, do it!”

On the Medieval Study Abroad Tour of 2018, we had the opportunity to travel to eight different countries! Never in my life did I think I would be able to have this kind of study abroad experience. It was amazing being able to see so much of Europe in one trip. My favorite parts of our studies included architecture and literature. I loved being able to recognize immediately styles of architecture upon walking into a gorgeous church or castle. I went on to continue touring Europe with my mother, and it was wonderful to be able to share the things I had learned with her. The medieval stories we read truly stuck with me, which is likely a great deal due to the fact that Professor Classen always encouraged us to make personal connections with what we were learning. I was going through a difficult situation in my life at the time of the trip, and my studies, newfound friends, and beautiful places we visited left me feeling invigorated. Classen is an outstanding professor, and we were fortunate to have his wife, Carolyn, join us on our trip as well. The friendships I made were long-lasting. We continue to get together more than two years later. Everyone was so incredibly supportive of each other on the trip, and I am forever grateful for that. Most students expect to see beautiful things and gain new experiences when they study abroad, but this tour gave me so much more than that.

Leslie Jull, 11-7-2020

Here are a few of Leslie’s photos:


Sultan Al-sudairi 10-2-2018

The Medieval Europe Study Abroad Tour was a life changing experience that I am very proud to have participated in and added to my list of college experiences. I joined the trip as an eighteen-year old freshman, knowing with conviction that I wanted to join a study abroad program within my college career. After reviewing the hundreds of study abroad options available, this particular program stood out to me. The reason is because it takes place in multiple countries and focuses on the subject of history. The fact that we travelled to eight countries last summer was a great opportunity and having our classrooms as castles, churches and city halls cemented my interest in medieval history. The memories that I have made are irreplaceable and will forever be cherished in my heart. As for the friends I have made, we started out as strangers but ended this trip as a family. I am glad that I was able to share so many great memories with each and every one of them, we will forever be bound by the summer of 2018. I highly recommend this trip to anyone who is interested in travel, history, culture and the adrenaline of adventure. Also, most importantly I recommend this trip to anyone who wants to find their true self because this is only achievable through travel. I would like to thank Dr. Classen and Carolyn for their efforts and hard work because without them none of this would be possible.


Emily Béghin, 6-5-18

Dr. Classen’s Medieval Europe tour is breathtaking. The artwork, architecture, poetry, theology, and history he presents us with along the way are filled with unforgettable beauty. This trip is fast paced, but well planned. The student is challenged academically, but also let to sit with the mystery and awe of the cultural pieces we are seeing. We are also exposed to modern cultural dishes and experiences in our free time. Dr. Classen is fluent in several languages which also makes travel quite smooth and frankly puts the travelers at ease. He also has a wealth of knowledge that makes the journey from site to site filled with curious surprises. There is never a dull moment. If you take a trip with the professor it is guaranteed to be both unforgettable and wonderful. I give it two thumbs up and an A++!

Kaitlynn Molloy, 1-19-18

The Medieval Europe Study Abroad Summer Tour 2017 is one of the best experiences I have had in college so far, and it is the greatest decision I have made.  I went into the course having a moderate interest in medieval times, but I had never really taken any specific courses on it.  This program taught me an incredible amount of history in such a short amount of time.  I was able to learn so much more than I could have simply sitting in a classroom.  Actually being in Dracula’s castle and hiking up Bulgarian fortresses allowed for a much greater understanding of the history.  Dr. Classen’s enthusiasm and passion for the material is infectious, and you’ll always have a smile on your face in class!

Furthermore, in addition to the magnificent castles and fortresses we saw, we got to see beautiful scenery when hiking to a waterfall and traveling to the top of the Austrian Alps.  This tour definitely gets you in shape, and by the end, climbing the second largest church tower in the world in Ulm (Germany) was a breeze!  The experiences I had on this trip were unforgettable.  I also got to experience a wide variety of foods including Veal Brain, a Bulgarian delicacy, which was actually quite tasty!  Dr. Classen is such a knowledgeable and experienced traveler, and you will never question your safety, and he is able to translate for you in the German-speaking countries!

Dr. Classen said that those of us going on the tour would become like a family, and of course he said this during our awkward classroom meetings before the trip, and I did not believe him, but my study abroad family is amazing and even 7 months after the trip ended we still talk in a group chat and go out to eat schnitzel dinners!  The people you travel with will share so many experiences with you that it is impossible to leave without having a bond!  I am so grateful for the new friends I left this tour with!  Also, we were given plenty of free time in addition to the excursions, so we were able to explore the towns independently and eat whatever we wanted, but our group pretty much always stuck together once we became friends. J

This Study Abroad tour is so much more special than any other tour.  Dr. Classen and Carolyn are absolutely delightful travel partners, and they made my first experience traveling without parents unforgettable!  I got to experience six countries while most study abroad programs only go to one or two countries.  This tour also prepared me and a few others on the trip to stay in Europe and travel independently; Dr. Classen taught us how to handle traveling on-the-go.  I highly recommend this program!  It changed my whole life, and it taught me so much more about the world; it helped me mature greatly.

Caroline Starr Bartlett, 2-15-16:

The Medieval Europe Study Tour 2015 was the most amazing and rewarding experience I have had at the University of Arizona. This trip was my first time traveling to Europe and away from my friends and family, and I can truly say that it was life changing to have the opportunity to see so many countries and meet so many new people. Because this trip has a smaller class size than many study abroad trips, everyone truly becomes a family and sticks together long after the trip is over. Without this trip, I would never have met one of my best friends. Academically, I came on the trip with no prior knowledge of Medieval history, but Dr. Classen is so passionate and knowledgable in the field, it is impossible to leave without that same love for European and Medieval history. Whether we were climbing castle walls, exploring Prague and eating in a Medieval restaurant, or getting to see the Berlin Wall for the first time, every day presented a new and incredible adventure on this trip. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a unique experience that will be worth so much more than six credits.

Sarah Johnson, Intercultural Studies/History: Medieval Study Tour Summer 2014
The Medieval Study Abroad Tour was one of the greatest experiences I had during my undergraduate career. It was amazing being able to visit six different countries in such a short amount of time and visit places not all tourists know about. The guided tours by Prof. Classen were not only informative but fun as Dr. Classen always kept us engaged and answered any questions we had about history, architecture, artwork, and more. Being able to go off on our own and explore was also an amazing part of the trip, I know that I’ve grown personally with each of my excursions alone and with fellow classmates. All of the people on the trip were incredibly friendly and everyone came together to celebrate my birthday during the trip! It is difficult for me to pick a favorite location that I visited because I loved getting lost among the Venice canals with my roommate, walking along an entire street of chocolate/cookie/candy stores in Bruges, watching world cup games in Germany, visiting the hometown of my favorite artist Alphonse Mucha (Prague, Czech Republic), and climbing many towers everywhere we went! With the credits I earned on the trip I was able to complete my minor in Intercultural studies, however the memories I made and the experiences I had were worth so much more than six credits on my transcript.
Jaynie E. Adams, German Studies/History
The medieval study tour changed my life. When I signed up to go, I had almost no preexisting interest in medieval history. As you will come to understand when you come back from the trip there’s so much to it beyond trite tales of knights and kings and destitution: there’s an everyday existence that breathes and is colorful and is and was worth living. As an aspiring historian I believe that all histories are connected, but the connections became much clearer since returning! You will see feats of human accomplishment (you own included, especially if you scale Montsegur!) that are both humbling and inspiring. Put simply: you will be completely and utterly surprised.
On a less academic note, the food is incredible.

Reid Sisson
German Studies Major/Business Admin Minor

Medieval Study Abroad Tour Statement

“The Medieval Study Abroad Tour has helped me in ways that I didn’t even think possible. First off, Dr. Classen is an amazing instructor and I would want no one other than him to lead me through the slimmest nooks and crannies of Europe. We visited places like Prague, Venice, Nuremberg, Bruges; it was really a trip full of history and culture. Nuremberg was at the top of my list when it comes to places we visited, partially because I can speak German, but also because the town itself was so vibrant and rich with history. No matter what city or town it is though, each one is special and unique in its own way, and you will find a way to make the most of it. If you’re thinking about this tour because you want to be a historian or medievalist, as Dr. Classen is, then you will have the time of your life learning everything there is to know about the different periods of medieval architecture. However, if you want to simply travel Europe for a month, this is also the best experience that the University of Arizona offers. You’ll learn an amazing amount about the different time periods, as I stated, but you’ll also get the experience of being abroad, experience that has positively influenced me in so many different ways since I’ve returned. I work for a commercial real estate firm in Southern California, and I cannot begin to talk about how many connections and relationships I have built this summer by talking about the different places I traveled to, and sharing so many of my experiences with clients, peers, and even one of the founders of my company. This study abroad tour offers something that, in my opinion, no other abroad program can, and that’s the experience of travel, and the knowledge that comes with it. If you have any interest at all in partaking in an abroad experience, I would highly recommend stopping by Dr. Classen’s office and having a conversation about this program, I did and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made…”

Jessie Welter (2014):

The tour was a complete success in my opinion. Not only was the program educational, but it was very well planned and exceptionally organized. The cities, sites, and curriculum of the course were all relevant to what we were learning. The places chosen to stay in also maintained a nice balance between smaller towns and large metropolitan cities.

 Dr. Classen’s passion about not only medieval history, but life, permeated every aspect of those three weeks and I learned more than I could have ever possibly hoped. What I appreciated the most about this trip was the constant communication he kept with the students. An open dialogue was encouraged and he responded very well to students’ input. For example, when we shared that a particular teaching style wasn’t something we felt we could get the most out of, he immediately worked with us to find more integrative ways for us to participate in the class and with the text. Unfortunately it has often been the case where professors have had a “my way or the highway” attitude, and while I respect their opinion in that, I loved that Dr. Classen really was interested in making sure all the students were able to get the most out of the class and the experience.

In short I would just like to say that though it is nearly impossible to visit 6 countries in 3 weeks and not get something positive out of the experience, what made this tour stand out was that by the end of the trip I felt as though we could all go home and feel like we didn’t miss a single thing and be satisfied in knowing we had done it all. This program’s continuation I believe will bring such a positive learning experience to the University of Arizona’s students and really is a one-of-a-kind and once in a lifetime program that should continue to be invested in.

Francisco Javier Andrade:

“This trip was easily one of the highlights from my undergraduate years. I had loads of fun, made a lot of friends, and got to explore a variety of new countries and cultures. Also, I really enjoyed the opportunity to become a more diverse person and learn about the world we live in. The experiences, memories, and lessons learnt from this trip have helped shaped me as a person and will stay with me throughout medical school and my career. If you have the opportunity to go on the Medieval Study Tour, I highly recommend you study abroad with Dr. Classen!”

In 2013 he was accepted to the Medical School at The University of Arizona. I could write for him an excellent letter of recommendation (AC).

Molly Gebler:

“The Medieval Study Abroad trip with Dr. Classen was such an amazing experience. I quite honestly, still talk about it at least once a week and it was two years ago! The bonds I created during the trip have landed me life long friends and there is not a moment of that trip that I did not absolutely love! The trip opened my eyes to what this world has to offer, the many different cultures surrounding us, and the beauty it all has to offer. This trip fueled my desire for my future and for wanting more from life. I am blessed for having gone on this trip and there is not any other professor more worth studying abroad with than Dr. Classen, his energy and excitement is so contagious and you cannot help but fall in love with Medieval Europe. If you like adventure, laughing, and seeing the world I promise you will love this trip.”

This summer I will be running across America from San Francisco to Baltimore for the Ulman Cancer Foundation after which I will be studying at ASU for their Masters in Social Work program for the Fall of 2013.

Amina A. Baruni (June 2013):

One of the most profound experiences I have had in my life was the Medieval Europe trip with Dr. Classen in 2010.  Before I went on this trip, I had never been outside of the United States, despite living a mere forty-five minutes away from Mexico my entire life. While some Study Abroad trips consist of three months in one city, much of which is spent in a classroom at a desk, the Medieval Europe trip fit in five countries (Italy, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland) in three weeks, which meant that we were always on the go.  With Dr. Classen as our brilliant polyglot tour guide to everything medieval, we explored cities and towns off the beaten path.  We interacted with locals, ate local food, explored in our own small groups, and soaked in every sight and smell of each town.  While I learned an incredible amount from the class discussions we had every day either in the lobby of the hotel we were at that day or en route to our next destination, I took the most away from the moments in which we toured and explored the towns.  It is one thing to read descriptions of medieval castles and paintings, but it is breathtaking to see the beauty up close. We were climbing up the same hills and mountains that others did hundreds of years ago, and seeing the same incredible views that they saw.

I started the trip knowing nobody except for Dr. Classen, with whom I had taken two classes with at the University of Arizona.  Our group consisted of 17 students, so while we all constantly interacted with each other, it was only natural for us to frequently split into smaller groups.  I became close with four girls on the trip, and now I have three best friends that I would not have if I had not gone on the Europe trip.  I am still affected by this trip because of the experiences that still feel surreal to me today.  I am not only affected because of the friendships I made on that trip, but because of the different methods of learning that I experienced on that trip.  I am currently in graduate school, earning my Masters of Education in Secondary Education.  One of the most important things I can do as a teacher is to provide my students with a variety of learning experiences and ways in which they can absorb material.  I have learned many of these from Dr. Classen, and his trip.  We read about castles, courtly love, and medieval history in books, but we then also saw the lasting effects of these things in person.  The trip also instilled within me a passion for traveling, and a need to experience other cultures that I was unable to do before this trip.  I am so grateful for the opportunity I had on this trip, and the experiences that still affect me every day.

Amy Linder (Nov. 8, 2013):

As a person with a love of the medieval past, it was a no brainer for me to decide to go on Dr. Classen’s Medieval Studies tour and I’m so glad I did! I had never been so excited for a class in my entire life. I had previously been to Europe in high school, but not like this. This intense 3-week adventure across the European continent was a whirlwind of fun. Shedding the stereotypes of school desks and tests, this class gave us a flexible classroom, from hotel lobbies to buses, to our living classroom—medieval cities, castles, cathedrals and more. It opened up my mind to the world around me. Visiting 7 different countries, the class included learning about many different cultures (and eating some really great local food) some of which I had never even thought about. Before this trip, I never knew anything about Slovenia, let alone thought I would ever get the chance to explore its capital, Ljubljana! We ended the trip with a detour from medieval history with a trip to Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. I got to stand in the same place my grandfather did almost seventy years ago when he fought there. It was a once in a lifetime experience. It may be hard to live out of a suitcase for three weeks, but that was a small price to pay for such an amazing experience. I formed friendships that will last a lifetime, had tons of laughs, and learned so much about medieval culture right in the heart of it all. If you have a chance to study abroad, keep the Medieval Study Tour at the top of your list. You won’t regret it!

I am graduating with a BA degree in Film and Television Studies and Producing in August 2014, after only three years at the University of Arizona. This study abroad trip, worth 6 units, helped push me ahead and is allowing me to graduate early and get a jumpstart on the rest of my life. In the future, when I think back at my college years, this trip will be my fondest memory. (Maybe it’ll be inspiration for a great award winning film? You never know…)

Brittany Rudolph (2013):

Joining the Medieval Study Tour has been the best thing I’ve done at U of A. I met new people, saw all kinds of new things, and learned very much about myself and the world around me. The best thing about it was that we were constantly encouraged to be adventurous and explore. As a result, I not only came back with a wealth of new knowledge, but with many great stories as well. The experience truly can’t be matched.
I had never traveled out of the country before this trip, so I was initially a bit hesitant to commit to it. However, all of my worries were in vain! Dr. Classen and his wife, Mrs. Classen, were great resources and ensured that every student felt comfortable and safe. If you, like me, have not traveled extensively, this particular program is a fantastic choice. The support of a U of A group makes travel easy and worry-free. At the same time, there is plenty of freedom, so you are still able to do some adventuring on your own. After participating in this Study Abroad opportunity, I now feel prepared to travel anywhere by myself! I never could have imagined feeling this way before I left for Europe.
Even if you are accustomed to travel, the Medieval Study Tour is truly a unique experience. Dr. Classen has a knack for discovering sites that an average tourist might never find. The tour also differs from many programs in that it allows students to see a variety of different places within one Study Abroad trip. For me, this made going to Europe all the more exciting. I not only got to see one country, but seven. Without this tour, I probably would have never traveled to Croatia in my entire life. Now that I’m back in the states, I can honestly say Croatia was one of my favorite places and contained some of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. I feel so fortunate to have gone there, and it was all possible thanks to the Medieval Study Tour.
Participating in this program inspired me to travel, to learn, and to grow. There is no question that casting aside my initial fears and buying that plane ticket to Munich (where our tour began) is the best decision I have made. I used to have my doubts when I heard people describe events as life-changing, but now I think the type of experience that I had on the Medieval Study Tour is what they mean.

Caleb Canchola, March 2017:

I was just thinking earlier today about my experiences on your study abroad program.  It was honestly one of the most profound experiences of my life and I am so thankful I was given that opportunity.

I often think about some of the texts we discussed.  One of my favorites was the story of the tumbler.  I loved how the tumbler did what he was best at and what made him truly happy, even if it was something as simple as the acrobatics he was performing.  It’s amazing to me that we still share the same struggles as people who lives hundreds and hundreds of years before us.

Something else really stuck out to me that I often think about.  I remember you bringing up the quote of “standing on the shoulders of giants”.  I had heard the quote before but never really knew what it meant.  The way I remember you explained it was along the lines of, we may be small or not as brilliant as some of the people who came before us, but because we have this wealth of knowledge due to brilliant minds that have come before us, we are in a way taller and have more advantageous than anyone else in history.  That is such a beautiful thought to me.

Rebecca Meyer   Graduated 2012 History/East Asian StudiesMedieval study abroad program:

My opinion of Dr. Classen’s Medieval Europe Study Tour 2010 is likely similar to others who participated, but it comes from the perspective of a non-traditional student. I returned to the UofA after a 15 year break. When I heard about the program, I was intrigued by the chance to earn credits by traveling to several countries which also happened to include areas of my family’s heritage. I had no idea what a meaningful and memorable life experience it would become.

I firmly believe that visiting other countries, experiencing other cultures and interacting with the locals makes us better human beings with more empathy and understanding toward the world around us. I recommend that everyone grab the opportunity if it comes their way. The group of students in my class came from a variety of backgrounds and religions to include those of the Jewish, Mormon, Muslim and Buddhist faiths. Not only did we get along great, but lifetime friends were made on that trip. The only argument we had was when the Buddhist did not want us to kill the horsefly buzzing us on the bus.

Dr. Classen was one of my favorite professors at the University of Arizona. He is knowledgeable, very animated and inspires lively discussions. He is also good at switching gears and explaining a concept in a different way if the point is not getting across. Dr. Classen is the perfect person to study abroad with as he seems to know just the right places to go and often there were delightful surprises along the way. I learned so much about medieval art and architecture to include not just when or where something was created, but why things were depicted a certain way and the historical significance.

Again, this trip consisted of visiting multiple countries – many of which I would never choose to visit on my own. The year I went we started in Italy and took a bus through Austria, southeast Germany, the Czech Republic and ended in Poland. Class would be held on the bus, in the hotel or in various locations in the cities we visited. The texts were not boring. The year I went we read Parzival and in a previous class I took with Dr. Classen we read The Nibelungenlied. It was really exciting to come across murals depicting both of those stories during our travels.

One of the perks of this study abroad tour is having all the lodgings and transportation taken care of. I did some traveling on my own after the class was over and really missed that as well as the camaraderie and the detailed explanations of the history behind the sights I was seeing.  The medieval tour was both fun and educational. The six credits can be applied toward a variety of different majors. One doesn’t need to be a History or German major to take part. Dr. and Mrs. Classen are excellent chaperones, but there are also opportunities to split off in groups to explore. It truly was one of the best experiences of my life and I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate.