Former Ramsey Award Winners: “What My Travels Taught Me”

From the February 2019 Desktop News | The John Fraser Ramsey Award was established to honor former UA history professor Dr. John Ramsey, who served at the University for 42 years and impacted generations of students, faculty, and staff. The award provides the recipient a stipend to travel to Europe on a “Great Ideas” tour, inspired by Ramsey’s signature class, “Great Ideas of Western Civilization.”

The Great Ideas tour allows students to set their own itinerary to explore Europe. The tour is designed to be informative about Europe’s history and culture, allow recipients to experience a new and exciting place, reflect on his or herself, and transform the recipient’s life and career powerfully and permanently. And for former recipients, these guiding principles allowed them to experience their trip in a way they never imagined.

Charlotte Watters, the 2017 recipient of the award, planned her backpacking trip through Iberia and to Eastern Europe. Currently a UA history graduate student studying early modern European history, the trip allowed her to experience the very places she studied every day, as well as learn a lot about herself.

“It challenged me in a lot of ways: taking that trip, planning the trip, going and being by myself,” Watters said. “I probably read 10 books. A lot of the trip was about teaching myself how to relax. You can be busy and enjoy yourself, but life’s also about sitting down in the park and enjoying your book in the sunshine and being somewhere where you don’t understand what people are saying and feeling content that you’re there.”

Samuel Hand, the 2013 recipient of the award, was already in France studying abroad when he won the award. Because of this, he split his Great Ideas Tour into two parts. The first leg of his trip helped immerse himself more deeply in French culture by visiting several small towns and villages in southern France, as well as Austria and Slovakia. The second, which was taken post-graduation, split time between Ireland and Greece.

“The most rewarding parts of the experience were the people I met along the way,” Hand said. “From getting to know the hosts where I would lodge, to spending time with fellow travelers, to watching Greece play in the world cup in a taverna with local residents in a small town in the Peloponnese, to listening to an Austrian share his perspective on the Holocaust, sharing time and culture with others was the most rewarding part of my experience. One can learn much about life when sharing a meal with someone from another country.”