Brussels to Gainesville: Some Impressions

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Center for European Studies
3324 Turlington Hall
PO Box 117342
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 294-7142
(352) 392-8966 (fax)
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Paul Turner wrote some of his impressions of Gainesville and UF when he arrived back home in Brussels:

“Firstly, physical surroundings in the US and Europe are so vastly different in many aspects. Gainesville, a town of some 150,000, people seemed so much smaller than European towns of half the size. There’s no big town square with a cathedral in the middle as is so familiar in European towns and cities. A cliché, I know, but it affects one’s perceptions of the environment you are in. And yet, converse to this, the actual size of the university campus in Gainesville, the sheer scale of the facilities and numbers of students simply staggered me. The university campus has a football stadium bigger than any professional football stadium in England, Germany, Italy or anywhere else you care to mention. Forget Old Trafford in Manchester, the new Wembley stadium in London, or the Olympic stadium in Munich…”

“So, one impression I was left with is simply the differences in perceptions of place in the US and Europe. This did strike me as I was privileged to spend a week in the town and campus in Gainesville.”

“And what of the students? Well, I have to say, my first lecture was to a group from the EU Club on a Monday evening at 7:00pm. You would be very hard pressed to get a group of European students to stay on after hours to have some bore coming to talk to them on the EU. How motivated you guys were! A full house and some good questions too.”

“My next few days, I was similarly confronted with well motivated and informed students. Were you hand-picked to impress me?! Seriously though, it gave me a lot of hope that some of the misconceptions that some Americans and Europeans have had of each other – perhaps especially in recent years with political differences – will be eased in the future. It is really encouraging to see a cadre of US students knowledgeable and motivated on matters European. I hope some of you will actually be able to put this knowledge to good use in future careers. Indeed, I was left wondering how much the average European student really knows about the US. Yes, they know what they want to know, the clichés and stereotypes, the Michael Moore films etc. But actually in terms of how the US works, the constitution, the system of government and so on, I really believe there is a void of knowledge in Europe when it comes to the US.”

“I hope perhaps to come back one day. Certainly my few days on your sunny campus were an enlightening experience and one I won’t forget. I am sure I will see some of you again, be this in Brussels or again in Gainesville.”