For any history buff, a trip to Normandy, France has a special meaning. Being able to make that trip while in college with some of your sorority sisters, makes it even more special.
Eliza Payne, a 2007 Zionsville Community High School graduate, decided to spend her spring break traveling to France rather than the usual tropical scenes most college students enjoy.
The fifth-year senior at William Woods University went on the trip with the group Woods Around the World, which is sponsored by the university.
“The program is designed to orient students with all types of different cultures,” Payne said. “It gets students out and traveling abroad without the usual cost burden.”
The group consisted of six students, five of which were Alpha Chi Omega sisters, two professors and one other chaperone.
“Since it was such a small group, it made the program a lot more intimate,” Payne said. “We were able to get to do a lot more.”
Payne describes herself as a “big history freak” so she jumped at the chance to travel to Normandy, the infamous site of the D-Day invasion.
“We were able to see Gold Beach and Omaha Beach,” she said. “We saw a lot of war memorials and tributes. We went to the American cemetery and seeing so many stones in perfect rows was really a very humbling and serene experience.”
Payne said her favorite part of the trip was being able to explore Normandy.
“We had a lot of free time on the trip so we were able to do a lot of exploring,” she said. “Being able to see Normandy really put into perspective the sacrifice this country made. We went to a lot of the sites of major World War II battles, and not enough people get to see that.”
For Payne, this trip marked her third time visiting France.
“The first time I went was in high school, and I don’t think I really understood or appreciated the fact that I was in France,” she said. “The second time was just with the family, and we were in more of Northern France. We were in areas that don’t really speak English all that well. This time, I got to see a lot of the sights. Plus, I was with my friends so the trip took on a whole new meaning.”
Payne said the stereotype of French citizens not being welcoming to Americans is not true.
“As long as you try to speak a little bit of the language and understand that it is a different culture, they are totally fine,” she said. “In Normandy, the people were so grateful and so welcoming to every Englishman or British person they see. It is very refreshing. I have no idea where that stereotype started because it’s really not true.”