BUIES CREEK, N.C. – Bryce Miller describes himself as "a wanderer at heart." Earlier this summer, the native of Roanoke, Va., added a new destination – Italy – to the list of places he has visited during a Campbell University study abroad trip.
The group of nine, led by Dr. Adam English, assistant professor of religion, arrived in Rome on May 15 and toured the country before returning to the States on June 5.
A rising junior majoring in religion, Miller has traveled to the Caribbean, Denmark, Sweden and England previously. His travels with the Campbell men's soccer team have taken him throughout the Southeastern U.S. and Middle Atlantic region.
"I always wanted to go to Italy," said Miller. "I was and still am fascinated with the culture and I have loved Italian soccer. Ever since I was little I dreamed of going to Italy to play soccer. In my room at home I have Italian jerseys and scarves of my favorite club AS Roma! It was a dream come true to be in the country of my childhood ambition."
The Campbell group visited Rome, Florence, Assisi, and Isola del Gran Sasso, staying about five days at each place.
In Isola, the Campbell group participated in a Christian camp event for about 70 youth. Miller and the other members of the travel party also spent time moving and setting tiles for an outdoor floor as a service opportunity.
On the group's first day in Rome, they visited the Coliseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. A walking tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel followed the next day, where Miller saw some of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art, including Michelangelo's ceiling.
In Florence, the group toured the Gallery of the Academy, which houses the world's most famous sculpture, Michelangelo's David. The trip also included time at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
"I like to experience everything and try everything," said Miller. "I find a deep sense of connection with individuals when you get into their culture and experience how they think and live."
Miller credited Dr. English for leading the trip. "He is an amazing and brilliant teacher, and it was a pleasure to sit and learn from him daily."
Along the way, Miller earned three credit hours for Religion 324: Ancient and Medieval Theology and Philosophy.
"I wanted to take the class in the environment that it actually happened," said Miller. "Being there really put you in a different world. There, you can feel the history all around you, every stone that you walk on and the ruined buildings are a part of how our world was created. My favorite part of the trip was getting to see all of the old churches and basilicas that were the beginning of our Christian faith."
Miller says his personal faith helped him view the places he visited and things he saw in a different light.
"The religion major side of me had an extra bit of excitement whenever we saw something that I read or had learned about. It also put into perspective how the individuals who built and used these buildings felt towards them. Everything that I saw was like a monument in my eyes instead of another church or another dead theologian," he said.
One of the benefits of any trip abroad is the opportunity to sample the regional fare. Miller took full opportunity.
"The legendary Italian cuisine was as good, if not better, than what you hear and read about. Everything tasted fresher and richer," said Miller. "Some things that I do not like in the States, like coffee and olives, were something that I enjoyed very much there. In Florence, I had the best porchetta (pork) sandwich I have every experienced in my life, that was by far the best meal that I had. In Rome I even had a try of the local delicacy tripe (intestine). It was disappointing in how salty it was, but I did eat most of it!"
Miller also quickly assimilated to the laid-back European lifestyle.
"The culture was refreshing, it was not as chaotic and scheduled as in the States," he said. "The espresso breaks at 11 and 4 as well as a 2-to 3-hour lunch break were just some small instances of how they took the time to enjoy the day and each other's company.
As a veteran of international travel, Miller was able to help the group get around the country.
"My previous traveling prepared me in a sense that I was not nervous of being away from the comforts of home, and I was able to rely on my past experiences with the European style of transportation (mass transit) and help to get us from point A to point B," he said.
Moreover, Miller is grateful for the opportunity to build new relationships.
"I'd just like to give a big thanks to the rest of the group who travelled with me for making it one of the best times of my life," he said. "I believe I have made lifelong friendships out of the high and lows that we experienced together."
Miller is coming off a break-out sophomore year when he tied for fourth-place on the team's scoring charts with 4 goals and 4 assists (12 points). His first career game-winning goal came last September at 17th-ranked NC State.
"I did get to play a little soccer when we were at camp in Isola," said Miller, "and I did Campbell proud by showing the Italians a thing or two!"
Miller and the Fighting Camels report for pre-season workouts on Aug. 9 with practice starting the following day. The Camels host Wake Forest in their exhibition opener Aug. 17.