A cowboy hat and a shot gun

Brittany Hink, a senior at Western Carolina, could not resist to tell the story of her first adventure  in Europe.  An adventure she swears she will never forget.

The trip was to London and she and her three friends, two Americans and one German, decided to fly back to Italy and drive the rest to France.  Here the adventure begins. Not one of the Americans knew how to drive a stick shift. The German knew how to drive a stick, but because of public transportation had not driven in almost a year, and was not accustomed to drive a minivan. So who drove the car? The German of course.

“They gave us an English map, which is great, but all the signs were in Italian! I had to try and guess what the cities were by looking at the map and back at the signs.” Her eyes darted down and up, down and up, and laughed as she reenacted her excursion.

The story continued as Hink colorfully illustrated their road that followed the Mediterranean, the Italian mountains, and her nervousness as the change in elevation brought change in weather: rain to sleet to snow on tunnels and bridges over canyons.

“If we were to die, no one was going to know. We would go straight into the Mediterranean sea,” she recalled. “We got back though, safe and sound.”

Reminiscing about her six months in Southern France made her face light up and her body comes alive reenacting the memories.

Hink had a travel window from Wednesday to Monday every week.

And travel she did.  England, Italy, Greece, Germany, and even Dublin, Ireland , for St. Patrick’s day.

“I have never seen so much green in all my life!” She exclaimed.

Hink is one of the many students at Western Carolina University who marry education with adventure through the study abroad program. She went to Nice from January to June of this year sharing a small flat two other girls, another Western student and a German.

“Everyone asks where you are from,” Senior Brittany Hink said as she sat across from me in Starbucks. “I would say my name is Brittany and they would say ‘Aw, like Brittany Spears!’” She laughed as she mimicked the French accent and her face crinkled up like a wadded newspaper in disgust.

“I told one guy I was American and he said he saw Americans with ‘a cowboy hat and a shotgun.’ I said ‘do you see me with a shotgun?’”

Going to France was more than just fun and games. Hink, attended three classes two days a week at three hours a piece. She found the style of studying in Europe different than in the states. The cushion of homework and quizzes as a chance to improve is nonexistent in France, Hink explained. One test, one project, one final; that is it.

She also took the trip with no French in her vocabulary, which made eating out an interesting task.

Hink said she would go to restaurants and just point to the menu no knowing what she was going to get.

“You would know the words for the meat, but you had no idea what you would be getting on it. One time I ordered a calzone and inside was a raw egg.” She noticed my disbelieving face and added:“I thought it was good before I knew what it was so I kept eating.”

Out of all of the places she had the opportunity to explore she did not have one favorite. She said all the places were so different, but yet all the same. She did come to the conclusion that she loved Rome and all the culture that went with it.

She is already ready to go back and says she sometimes even wakes up to French time, but for now she is one of us with “a cowboy hat and a shotgun.”