Studying Abroad: Student Experiences in Music History through Germany, Austria, and England – Thomas More University

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In July 2023, eight Thomas More students and faculty studied abroad in Bavaria and the United Kingdom. The program was led by Dr. Daniel Parsley, Thomas More director of choral activities and music program head, and Dr. Jill Phillips, adjunct instructor of voice.
The program was two-fold— 10 days in Germany and Austria with stops in Munich, Dachau, Salzburg, Halstatt, and Vienna and 15 days in London with excursions to Birmingham, Liverpool, Coventry, and Stonehenge. While in London, students completed the CCSA course MUS 434: Beheadings, Beatles, and Bowie: Music and Culture Conflict taught by Dr. Parsley.
In summer 2023, Dr. Parsley is scheduled to teach abroad with the Kentucky Institute of International Studies Salzburg program. To learn more, including how to get 6 academic fine arts core credits, visit https://www.kiis.org/programs/salzburg/.
Photos courtesy of student participants and Dr. Daniel Parsley.
Below, some participating students share their experience in the program. Not only did they gain credit toward their degree, they also gained valuable life perspective and made memories that will last a lifetime.

Melinda Kellam ’22, MBA student, administrative coordinator for Thomas More University’s College of Business & to the Dean of Students
Our study abroad music history class was called Beheadings, Beatles, and Bowie: Music and Culture Clash, which took us on a once in a lifetime journey through Germany, Austria, and England. We studied about the origins of music that derived from love, war, conflict, classical literature, poems, religion, and the Reformation that influenced and helped form cultures and societies. We visited historical sites and stood in the same castles and cathedrals as composers, kings, and queens that were influenced by the same music we were listening to and learning about. In Salzburg, Austria, our class visited the Kollegienkirche, (Collegiate Church) for a classical performance of the Salzburg Music Festival which is considered the world’s largest and most prestigious musical festival. We also visited location sights of the legendary film, Sound of Music, which is still very much alive with music.
Our class history timeline took us from the Tudor Dynasty in 16th century up through the 21st century and carried us to many places including the London Tower where King Henry VIII had a few wives beheaded, St. Paul’s Cathedral to listen to an Evensong worship which is a treasure service of sung Evening Prayer taken from the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, Windsor Castle, Liverpool where the Beatles originated and started their revolutionary “British Invasion” to the famous Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded their famous music and everything in between. We met fascinating people like historians, musicians, chefs, Beefeaters, locals, and people from around the world. We traveled thousands of miles by plane, train, buses, and on foot. The streets of London were filled with music that we enjoyed from street musicians, cathedral choirs, to the symphony of the Royal Opera House. We enjoyed eclectic foods from around the world including German wiener schnitzel and spaetzle, English fish and chips, Sunday roast and tea, Italian pastas, Spanish empanadas, and oysters & caviar that we found in local markets to the finest restaurants. We enjoyed art museums, plays, concerts, shopping, and just being together as we explored each city. Fun and excitement were plentiful, but ice and air conditioning were scarce.
Through readings, discussions, expositions, walking tours and live performances, this course explored the role of music in London’s cultural upheaval, from the religious wars of the 16th century to Ziggy Stardust and Amy Winehouse in modern times. Songs and music reflect history, values, conventions, and attitude. We learned how to describe the effect of various political, religious, and social movements on performing arts, as well as critically assess music from a variety of genres within a musical, social, cultural, and political context through written responses and class presentations.
Studying abroad provides an opportunity to discover the world and yourself while gaining a global perspective.
Studying abroad provides an opportunity to discover the world and yourself while gaining a global perspective. Experiencing new people and places gives you an understanding of different cultures while you learn and earn credits towards your degree. It is an absolute amazing opportunity that will enrich your life as a student and person.
Kansie Disney ’22, Art History Graduate Student, John Cabot University
I have always had a heart for traveling. Growing up half Filipino meant many family vacations on the other side of the world. Yet, by my senior year of college, I had never been to Europe, and I had never truly traveled by myself outside of Northern Kentucky. I always meant to study abroad in undergrad, but the pandemic put a pause on that dream for a bit. Then, my final year at Thomas More, Dr. Parsley announced to my class that his summer class in London was for sure happening, and of course I had to go.
Before the class officially started, some of us went with Dr. Parsley to Germany and Austria, and my heart was immediately stolen by the beautiful culture in those countries. Everywhere you looked there was another church with rich history, or a beautiful park full of flowers. I am still convinced the little Austrian lake town of Hallstatt is the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. I have never been more at peace than sitting in my room’s windowsill in Munich or sitting on the edge of the river at sunset in Salzburg.
And then there was London. Different from Germany and Austria, London was a melting pot of culture. Some of the best international food in the world is made in London. And the music! Dr. Parsley’s class focused on the history of music from the Tudor Dynasty up to present-day pop, particularly with how music is always surrounded in the context of conflict. Music is the purest expression of human nature, and so of course, there are patterns to be seen across history. William Byrd and the Beatles have more in common than meets the eye!
By the end of this trip, I was more confident than I have ever been before, especially in regards to independent travel. Dr. Parsley taught us how to master public transport in both Germany and the UK (without using Google Maps!). He taught us how to get out of our comfort zone and not be afraid to speak German at restaurants. He taught us how to truly enjoy living in Europe for a month.
I am currently writing this reflection in my apartment in Rome, where I am studying more art history for my master’s degree. This is something I never thought I would actually be doing last year. Traveling the world and living in Europe always seemed like a big dream that wasn’t realistic. Without having taken Dr. Parsley’s study abroad class this summer, I would have been still stuck in my shell moving to Italy. His class truly prepared me for what I was to experience in my future studies abroad, as well as gave me the confidence I needed to be successful in my future in general, and for that I am forever grateful.
I have become a more well-rounded, better version of myself because of my study abroad experience, and so will you.
If you are on the fence about studying abroad: DO IT. I have become a more well-rounded, better version of myself because of my study abroad experience, and so will you.
Laura Tatum, sophomore, Thomas More University secondary education/history major
When I was little and planning my future, I never expected my first experience abroad to be with my college, but I’m glad my plan fell through. This experience taught me so much and gave me many lifelong memories.
One of the first things I learned was that even though communication is difficult when you don’t speak the native language, you can still communicate. We had just landed in our first stop on the 3-week long journey, and after three long flights, I wasn’t feeling great. I have really bad motion sickness. We had just boarded our train to head to the first hostel, and I turned pale as a ghost. There was a girl around my age standing across from me on the train. Her eyes were asking “hey, are you okay?” Her face looked so concerned. I tried to respond “no” with my eyes and shaking my head. We ended up having a whole conversation with our eyes. Even though this was a very small moment in the trip, I will never forget this girl because she was the first to teach me how to communicate without talking.
Another thing that I learned was how to navigate without data. In the US we can just easily pull out our phones and look up directions. During the first portion of the trip, I tried to not use my phone and memorize the streets and landmarks. This really helped me gain confidence and made me feel like maybe one day I could travel alone and be able to navigate. It also helped me engage with the culture, especially in the places we visited with a subway. In Vienna, the signs in the subway were all in German. We had to be completely aware of which stop was which and be very spatially aware of our surroundings.
One of my favorite hobbies is to take pictures of scenery in my free time. The places we visited didn’t disappoint. My favorite place in Munich was something we stumbled upon. There was a river in the middle of the park. People were floating down stream just enjoying life. Families were enjoying the day together and friends were hanging out, it was just so peaceful. I never wanted to leave. I can definitely see myself living in Munich in my future. In Salzburg, one of my favorite places we went was the castle on top of the mountain. Looking down at the city was breathtaking and the mountains in the background just added to the experience. Salzburg, itself, is very photogenic. Everything there is just so beautiful. In London we had a lot more time to explore and enjoy the culture. My favorite place there was in the Camden market. The streets inside the market were lined with vendors and great food. The umbrella street was beautiful and definitely one of my favorite pictures I took the whole trip. But my favorite thing in London was definitely the subway. It was very easy to navigate. On one of our free days I went to Platform 9 ¾ on my own. That was one of my favorite days of the whole trip. I met some really nice people on the train and in the Disney store. The Disney store was full of people, but the cashier took time out of her day to have a conversation with me. She didn’t have to do that, but she did anyway.
During our travels I also learned to try new things, especially food. I have always been a picky eater, but when the menu is in a different language, you don’t really know what you’re ordering. My favorite place to eat at was in Vienna. It was a little Greek restaurant in the middle of town called Ellas. The staff was incredibly nice, and it was the only grilled food we found while in Germany and Austria. We liked it so much we went back two days in a row. While abroad I also learned to try new experiences. I went in my first “haunted house.” It was the London Dungeon. It told of London’s tragic historical past including the great fire, the plague, Jack the Ripper, Sweeny Todd, and other tragedies. I also went on the London Eye which was my first Ferris wheel experience. It was also my first time flying in a plane and being on a train.
Since coming back to the U.S., I have found that being abroad has opened my eyes to new opportunities for my future.
Since coming back to the U.S., I have found that being abroad has opened my eyes to new opportunities for my future. I always thought my path was set in stone, and I would have to settle on a career. I thought my life had a direction, and it was the only way to go. Being abroad has taught me never to settle. Settling doesn’t make you happy and doesn’t bring you to your greatest potential because you’re not following your dreams. If America had settled with Britain, we would still be a part of the U.K. If African Americans had settled, we would still be segregated and not had the Civil Rights Act. If women had settled, they would still not have the right to vote. There is definitely some changes that need to be made to fight for equality now, but we have only gotten this far because our ancestors didn’t settle. They fought for what they believed in and wanted for their lives and their children’s lives. I don’t want to settle, and I’m glad being abroad has shown me my potential. For anyone that is reading this and considering going abroad while in college, do it and don’t look back. It will be challenging and will test your limits, but it will also show you who you are and who you want to be. It will also show you how big the world is and how your life can change. You may feel trapped sometimes but there is always a way out. I hope that this can be an inspiration for other Thomas More students to believe in themselves, even when times are hard. Also, I want to say a big thank you to Dr. Daniel Parsley. He showed us that we are capable of independent travel by teaching us to believe in ourselves and each other. Even though we fought sometimes, we all had an underlying trust and respect for one another. This is why we got places safely and we all got back in one piece. Dr. Parsley taught us to be confident and trust our instincts, which is something you can’t teach in a normal classroom. I hope to be a great teacher like him someday. 
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