Student’s search for a pen leads to `real world’ vacation

This is the true story of eight strangers chosen to go on a trip.

And GW student Greg Olson will personally find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being themselves as he takes an all expenses-paid trip to Milan, Italy, this weekend.

The catch?

The eight college students must find clues provided by Western Union, the company paying for the trip, to snake their way through Europe. Olson has an itinerary, but said he has largely been kept in the dark about what to expect.

When he began making plans for spring break, Olson said he had no idea Europe would be his destination.

“I’d planned to go home and work,” he said. But he said that idea changed when he forgot a pen for his history final last semester.

Late for the final, he did not have time to go back to his room and pick up another one. Instead, he saw a vendor that was giving away free pens in exchange for entering a raffle. Olson filled out the forms, took the pen and proceeded to his exam, he said.

A few weeks later, he received a telephone call informing him that he had won. He said he had expected a T-shirt as his prize, but was soon told he would be traveling across Europe.

He said his friends were jealous of him and even seemed more excited than he was.

“(Winning) isn’t going to hit me until I’m on the plane,” Olson said.

He said he is a little nervous about the trip, given the recent violent demonstrations by Kurdish protesters in Italy and the acquittal of the Marine pilot on trial for killing several Italian skiers in the Alps when his plane sliced a gondola cable last summer.

Despite his reservations, Olson said he is excited about seeing Europe and especially the Mona Lisa.

“It’s so famous . I might as well see the real thing,” he said.

He said he also is looking forward to seeing many of the places he has studied as a history major in the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences.

Olson said he never has been overseas. His only previous international experience was as a child on a trip to Canada that was cut short when he hit his brother in the head with a rock and his family had to go to the hospital.

The trip begins Saturday with a flight to Milan. After Milan, the group will continue to Salzburg, Austria, and then to Paris. From there, they will travel to London and will fly back to the United States from there.

“Europe better be all it’s cracked up to be,” said Olson, who said he got an A on that history final.

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