Lawrentians Tour the World: 2022 Spring Harkness Travels

Elisabeth Clements ’22, Kyle Baek ’22, and Andrew Chen ’23 in Features | April 1, 2022

Sardinia, Italy
Elisabeth Clements ’22

Over spring break, I had the privilege of traveling around Italy and learning about the slow food movement. The trip was the perfect balance of education and leisure. We toured venues from farms to high-end Roman restaurants and were able to meet with locals to learn about the importance of food in Italian culture. The slow food movement began in northern Italy after McDonalds planned on opening a location in a small town. The locals believed that the iconic fast-food chain threatened the custom of sitting for a long meal, so they started the slow food movement to emphasize the tradition of community that food promotes.In Italy, we learned about the slow food experience, which is the collaborative process of making a fresh meal and sitting down to eat it together. That is exactly how most of our meals went: slowly. Due to the grab-and-go culture that we are so used to here at Lawrenceville, long sit-down meals were hard to get used to. Italian meals typically have two main courses, making them even longer than a single-course sit-down American meal. Although there were some instances of falling asleep at the table, dinner soon became an experience that we grew to love. Most of us did not know each other before the trip, so the dinner table was the perfect place to bond with peers who we typically wouldn’t connect with during the school year. 

Aside from acting as an extended feast, this trip also helped us perfect our (sometimes nonexistent) cooking skills. We shopped at local markets for farm-fresh ingredients, then used them to cook meals with Italian chefs. We learned how to cook fresh spiral-shaped pasta and fancy desserts. We visited sustainable buffalo farms where buffalo mozzarella was crafted right in front of us. Farmers braided strands of mozzarella soaked in water as spectators watched. Seeing the work that goes into getting food from a farm, field, or animal to the table helped us appreciate the art and effort of a warm, fresh meal. 
Of course, no Harkness Travel Trip is complete without plenty of sightseeing. We saw iconic tourist attractions: Pompeii, the Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain. We stopped in La Mezia, Salerno, and Rome and were given time to walk around each city to explore; we spent most of our free time eating in gelaterias or cafés. When we weren’t exploring the city, we were admiring the amazing architecture of Rome. We walked through cathedrals and spent time in Italian art museums and antique stores as well. We mostly used the time to take long walks through the city and stop at random shops that intrigued us. Most of us left with postcards, jewelry, and presents for our families. 

By the end of the trip, we had perfected the art of slow food, and, in the process, got to know one another over the dinner table. Whether we were playing cards in a hotel room, walking through orchards, or running around a market, we were constantly having a blast. The trip was truly a fantastic way to spend my V Form spring as a Lawrentian, and I highly recommend that everyone go on a Harkness Travel Trip in the future. 

Kyle Baek ’22 and Andrew Chen ’23

12 bodies huddled together in a room no bigger than Lawrenceville’s dorms, all eagerly willing to sacrifice sleep for glory. This was merely our first night in Iceland with a group of students previously unaware of each other’s existence merely 24 hours ago. A group that will hike through rain and storm in uncomfortably wet pants, jackets, and socks. A group that will unfailingly gather after each day to talk and play outrageously loud, often intense, but always enjoyable board games. A group that will grow to be closer than family in under nine days.

On the first day, at around 6:00 am, we landed at Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport. We could feel the brisk wind as we trekked through the frosty landscape; the sun rose over the frigid Atlantic Ocean. The group had already been acquainted with each other, so breakfast acted simply as a continuation of the conversations previously held. Our first obligation took us to the center of Reykjavik where we heard from author and climate activist Andre Magnusson. He spoke passionately about the importance of spreading climate change awareness. After our meeting with Magnusson, we set off to visit a geothermal power plant that heated the water in the areas’ homes and cities. We learned about Iceland’s important location over a hot spot, but the long flight started to take its toll on us. About 30 minutes into the exhibition, we found ourselves sound asleep in a room with dimmed lights and bean bags. 
Throughout our long road trip across the southern coast, we were tasked to understand the environmental implications of Iceland’s receding glaciers. At the Vatnajökull glacier, our tour guide reiterated the importance of sustaining ice continents to maintain the planet's climate and ocean levels. A remnant of its former glory, we took a long hike to reach the glacier. To think that the next time we visit these glaciers, they might only be accessible by boat, shines a light on the urgency of drastic climate reforms. 

The second glacier we visited, Breiðamerkurjökull, was a view that couldn’t be described by any photo, word, or picture. One side had mountains seemingly connected with the rainy sky, and on the other stretched a barren landscape, haunted by the remains of a melted glacier. In front of us stood Breiðamerkurjökull, the biggest glacier in Europe. After traversing through a cave, we strapped our crampons back on and started a grueling 1-2 mile hike up the glacier. I paused to take everything in. A feeling of weightlessness sank in, free of responsibility, worries, and dread.

During the trips’ final days, we roamed the stone-studded streets of Reykjavik and ate plenty of delicious foods. Since Reykjavik is a city populated by many immigrants from all over the world, we indulged in a variety of international cuisines: Greek donuts, Japanese tonkatsu ramen, Thai basil fried rice, and cheeseburgers. We also had our fill of traditional Icelandic food: mashed fish (Plokkfiskur), sheep-head jelly, dried fish with butter, and fermented shark. 

Looking back on this trip, the memories I made were unforgettable. Whether we were trekking across the massive Vatnajokull Glacier, observing the vibrant colors of the Northern Lights, or studying the severe implications of global warming, the opportunity to have this life-changing experience was a privilege I’ll never take for granted.