Author: Casey Ryan, C’95
I was on vacation this September, going to Scotland and Wales, with my parents. The idea of the trip started to form soon after my vacation with them to Ireland last year. By June, my parents had purchased their flights into the UK via Manchester, and I sent my deposit along for the hotel rooms. Then, I needed to get my tickets to Europe. I was planning to cash in some United Miles for the trip – all using the least amount of miles and dollar for airport and landing taxes – and I put together a trip from Newark to Manchester via Stockholm and a return trip from Dublin to Philadelphia via Boston. I needed to buy a flight from Manchester to Dublin separately. In the end, I had one funky itinerary. However, in total, my tickets cost about $130 in fees and 60,000 frequent flyer miles. That’s the beauty of travel – what you lose in succinctness, you gain in adventure.
Two weeks before my trip, an invitation to an event in Greece triggers an e-mail from Athenian alumna who has relocated to Stockholm. She wanted to know how to start a club. Since I had a long layover at Aranda, I thought that I should at least meet her while I was in transit (you never take a vacation from alumni relations; you just don’t answer e-mails as quickly).
We had a lovely breakfast meeting, taking in the Swedish cinnamon rolls, kanelbullar, with coffee. We talked about the over 100 alumni in Sweden and over 50 in the greater Stockholm metropolitan area. We shared ideas about how to reach out to them and what might be of interest to the regional Penn alumni. I gave Stephanie a bag of Penn goodies to sample with her follow alumni in the city when she had her first gathering. We also talked about the Olympics, since I had mentioned that I wanted to see the Stadium from the 1912 Games. She suggested where to go to see some of the very Swedish sites. I ended up choosing the Vasamuseet, the Stadion and the Stadshus, and Stephanie walked me down to the Vasa Museum for an impromptu tour.
After Sweden, my itinerary took me to Manchester, Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow. I visited the Manchester Art Gallery, the Royal Mile, Loch Ness – looking for Nessie, Urquhart Castle and the Lighthouse. On my second morning in Glasgow, I join my parents for a Scottish Breakfast – complete with haggis. I wore a Penn shirt and I didn’t realize it until one of our fellow diners asked if any of us were connected to Penn. For those who don’t know, my brother and I went to Penn undergraduate and my mother took classes and works for the Health System. So, we all proudly owned up to being a Penn family (my dad chimed in that he was proud to sign the checks for my tuition).
Maureen had just been in Philadelphia about two weeks prior dropping off her daughter for her first year at Penn – living in Harrison College House. She was excited for her daughter and was looking forward to getting engaged in all that Penn has to offer parents. In finding out that Maureen lives in Phoenix, I gave her my business card and let her know that there is a Penn and Wharton Club of Arizona located in Phoenix that welcomes the parents of Penn students. As I said, you never take a vacation from alumni relations.
My trip continued via England into Wales, with stops in Llandudno, Cardiff, then back to Manchester and finally Dublin. After a busy trip, I landed in Boston and walked into Logan. There, I met up with Melissa Wu, C’99, member of the Penn Alumni Regional Club Advisory Board. We had found each other through Foursquare and Twitter. We spent just a few moments catching up before I had to run and change terminals for my trip back to Philadelphia. We bid farewell, promising to reconnect at Homecoming.
Exhausted, I poured myself into my seat on the airplane and relived the fantastic trip in my mind – noting how many amazing Penn people I met along the way.