The Flying Longhorns’ ever-popular Essential Europe trip proves that the continent’s magnetic pull on new grads is stronger than ever.
Is any trip more classic than the whirlwind European vacation? For more than a century, young Americans have flocked to Paris, London, Rome, and other iconic destinations. They go in search of themselves, of sophistication, culture, and adventure. From 1951’s An American in Paris to 2004’s Eurotrip and 2011’s The Marriage Plot, we just can’t get enough of the coming-of-age Europe trip.
We had a football player, sorority and fraternity and spirit groups—just all kinds of students.
And neither could 66 young Texas Exes, who traveled to 10 countries—11 if you count Vatican City—this summer. The annual Flying Longhorns trip is so popular with new grads that a second departure was added again this year to meet burgeoning demand. Both trips traced the same perennially beloved itinerary over 24 days in May and June.
Texas Exes Chapters Coordinator Sally Bage, who hosted the first trip, was struck by the cross-section of young alumni it drew. “We had a football player, sorority and fraternity and spirit groups—just all kinds of students,” Bage says. “Some of them had been anticipating the trip for more than a year.”
What’s behind the allure? UT American Studies professor and chair Steve Hoelscher, who studies the geography of tourism and teaches a UT course in Vienna, traces it back to the 19th century.
“Since before The University of Texas was even on the map, there was a long tradition of young Americans going to Europe, as a kind of ‘finishing school’ experience,” Hoelscher says. “I think there’s an attraction to Europe because it’s different from America, but not that different. It’s a comfortable jumping-off point.”
For many of this year’s travelers, Bage says, the trip was a graduation gift from family. For others, it was the light at the end of the tunnel after final exams—a last hurrah planned with friends.
The beauty of this particular trip was its customizability. One group planned ahead and attended a Jay-Z concert in Paris in their free time. Another traveler’s main motivation was to see Munich’s Neuschwanstein Castle, which inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Mosettee Lorenz, BJ ’12, Life Member, says the trip complemented her education in ways that surprised her. “We were in Greece while they were deciding whether to stay in the Eurozone, and a ferry we were supposed to take was on strike,” Lorenz recalls. “I’d read about the news, but experiencing it was another thing entirely. The trip was a broad educational experience.”
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Photos by Ashlee John, Tara Kuhner, and Seth Elsenbrook.