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No hostility, just hospitality

On a trek across Europe (for college credit), students find that many Europeans still like Americans - even if they don't like the war in Iraq.

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Before slipping on his Teva sandals and setting out on a 1,500-mile walk across Europe for college credit last semester, junior Matt Soule took a deep breath and thought to himself, "Should I be worried about being an American in Europe?"

After all, the US wasn't exactly winning popularity votes among its European allies with the war in Iraq. Would he be caught in the crossfire of anti-American sentiment?

As it turned out, Matt and his peers from Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, N.H., had little to worry about. From the lush Burgundy area of France to the dry, hilly region of Tuscany, Italy, they encountered friendly faces, homecooked meals, and endless hospitality. It wasn't unusual for the locals to bring cakes, plates of cheese, and bowls of homemade soup to their tents.

"We'd ask a farmer if we could sleep on his land, he'd say yes, tell us where to find water, then never come check on us again," says Mr. Soule. "Sometimes I felt like there should have been a catch with some of these people, they were almost too nice."

True, the paths they chose were often country roads, where they were more likely to run into cows, boars, and donkeys than people. But that didn't stop program coordinator Taylor Morris from worrying about their safety.

"I had a little bit more apprehension going this year than I ever had before, simply because of the war in Iraq. But I still found that in general, Europeans are more sophisticated politically, and they are able separate people from their government," says Mr. Morris, who has logged more than 15,000 miles over 13 years on the various walks.

Over 3-1/2 months, 44 students, leaders, and assistants walked 12 to 15 miles a day along the country roads of several European countries (see map, left). The students pitched a tent on a different farm every night and carted a ton and a half of equipment in a large Avis truck. It was part of Franklin Pierce's "Walk in Europe" program. Now in its 35th year, the walk is offered every fall semester, and the route changes each time.


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