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Panther pride and bonding are perks of alumni travel

Panther pride and bonding are perks of alumni travel

January 13, 2016 at 12:00am

What can be better than travelling across the world to gorgeous locations at discounted group rates? Travelling with an amazing group of fellow Panthers.

The Panthers Getaway Program offers the ultimate travel experience for proud panthers: convenient, stress-free travel packages, life-long learning experiences beyond the walls of FIU and a vibrant community of travel buddies who spread their Panther Pride around the globe.

Bill Draughon, who heads the Panther Getaway program, says it also plays a crucial role in helping current students. The travel companies with which FIU works make contributions to the FIU First Generation Scholarship Fund, which is matched by the state. “So when alumni book our tours, they are assisting students obtain a college degree,” Draughon says. “We think this is a win-win scenario.”

Tina Vidal ’02 MIB ’04 visited Turkey, Greece, Malta and Italy while on the Mediterranean Cruise in July 2015. “It was great to travel with people from my alma mater and get to know other people that graduated from the university,” she said.


In Istanbul: (front row, from left) Mahesh Patel and Carlos Duart ’94 MST ’99; (back row, from left) FIU staff member George Corton ’03 MBA ’14, FIU staff member Shivani Joshi, a local guide, FIU staff Carla Garcia ’10 and Tina Vidal ’02 MIB ’04

A visit to the Koç Museum in Istanbul was a highlight of the trip. “We got to see some of the most amazing things from history and even toured a U.S. submarine that was used during World War II,” Vidal recalled. And for the film buff in her, Malta had its own charms. A huge fan of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Vidal was delighted to see firsthand the locations where several of the scenes from the movie were shot.

During their Provence Immersion trip in France, FIU grads David MBA ’79 and Joan Kittridge ’78 attended lectures, tours and day trips. They even enjoyed French conversation classes, something that Joan Kittridge continued once she returned home to Orlando. “I hadn’t [studied] French in 40 years,” she says, “so that got me into it.”


David MBA ’79 and Joan Kittridge ’78 in Tuscany

The Kittridges also went on a Best of Tuscany tour, where they too got a taste of the movies. Actor Dustin Hoffman was working in Montepulciano while they visited, and “the whole village was sitting on the Piazza watching the filming,” Joan Kittridge says.

Added David Kittridge, “We had some really tremendous experiences. A lot of times we go on tours, we’re glad we went there, and we don’t need to go back. But we could go back to Florence.”

The Kittridges don’t often have a chance to visit FIU and so appreciated being able to learn about activities at the university through the alumni, faculty and staff who participate on trips.

Vidal agreed that catching up with FIU in that way makes the trips very special. “The more we do that surrounds FIU, the more we, as alums, are connected to the university.”