By: Brandy Cox Jackson
Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni & Executive Director

As a college student, I learned that education was not just in classrooms and textbooks – there is education in our experiences.  As an undergraduate, I studied Greece and Greek Culture.  As a graduate student, I studied Freedom of Speech with Dr. Stephen Smith on the Oxford and Cambridge campuses.  Today as alumni, we all have an opportunity to continue our education through experiences with our Razorbacks on Tour program.

After five years in my role as Executive Director of the Arkansas Alumni Association, I embarked on my first tour in October with 29 alumni and friends. My husband and I began our experience in Monaco at the acclaimed Casino Royale and enjoying specialties of the famous Café de Paris. Our cruise experience aboard Oceania’s Nautica provided personal service with multiple excursion options to create our own life experiences ashore at eight different ports of call throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Highlights included an exclusive tour of Rome with the faculty of the University of Arkansas Rome Center, calling the Hogs with 20 travelers in the center of Ancient Pompeii, and an afternoon of Tapas and Flamenco at the Spanish island of Mallorca. So many special opportunities for our alumni and friends to gain new experiences.

Some of my favorite experiences include:

  • FoodService at the Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo

I should confess that I love food.  The whole experience that surrounds food: the selection, the preparation, and the fellowship of sharing a meal and getting to know people around you.  So when I travel, I research food and I plan my days around where I am going to eat.  The experience on Oceania’s Nautica did not disappoint. From the filet of Dover sole to the decadent desserts, the food was delicious.  But enjoying a meal goes beyond the food on the plate or the beverage in your glass, it is about getting to know people whether they are close friends you planned travel with, brand new acquaintances, or fellow Razorback travelers.  Aboard Nautica, we visited with fellow alumni through small gatherings as well as a large meal for the entire group in the main dining room.  In Rome, we sat shoulder to shoulder in a Roman café where we laughed, told stories, and toasted one another.  These experiences over a meal bring me joy and a feeling of personal growth to understand the world and people around me better.

  • Sunrises and Sunsets

Two people looking out over the sunset from a cruise shipThere is something beautiful and magical about watching the sun rise to greet you in the morning, follow you through the day and gracefully set as your ship sails on for the night.  The sun rising over the yachts in Monaco certainly lived up to the hype, although I never spotted anyone out on the water sipping champagne like all of the film clips suggest. In Saint Tropez, France, the sun rose and peeked out through the clouds onto the French Riviera spectacle of high-end shops and closed night clubs recovering from festivities of the previous evening. The Amalfi coast provided a perfect backdrop for the setting sun as our ship took leave of the mainland for days at sea and island hopping.  My husband and I wrapped up our final night off the coast of Spain with sunset toasts to the end of a beautiful trip.

Visiting places of worship in Rome.

  • Cathedrals

Is a tour of Europe complete without classic cathedrals?  We went a bit off the beaten track for one special cathedral.   Located in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles, the Il Duomo di Pisa is often overshadowed by the more dramatic Leaning Tower of Pisa, however, the square and nearby cafes were a special way to enjoy a more relaxed day in Italy.  The Pantheon is a Roman temple, now church, that is a stop for many on a first visit to Rome, and fortunately for us, our special U of A tour guides also made a quick stop in Vatican City for a view of St. Peter’s Basilica.  The most breathtaking Cathedral from our stops and exploration had to be St. John’s Co-Cathedral on the island country of Malta.  The baroque architecture and style were magnificent and beautifully ornate. And the most stunning skyline cathedral was in the city of Palma de Mallorca where the picturesque Roman Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria takes your breath away.