Students hit the road for foreign travel

Trips include excursions to Africa, Europe


Lauren Smith , Culture Co-Editor

Rather than honing their fluency skills with a textbook or worksheets, several students put their study into practice by traveling outside the country and speaking the language with host families, shopkeepers and other natives.

Over the summer, the school offered students many trips around the world. Students taking French received the opportunity to travel to France, students taking German traveled to Germany, students taking Latin went to Italy (where they didn’t speak much Latin but did tour the sites) and students enrolled in In Our Village traveled to Tanzania (more for providing service than speaking).

Exploring France

Senior Gabi Hanahan visited France. She said, “We left on May 30 and came back June 16.” Nine students and two teachers made the trip.

French teacher Mr. Gary Spurgin said, “This is the 15th year we’ve been in the exchange program.”

Hanahan said, “I hosted exchange students two years in a row, and I really wanted to go to France to improve my French and because I thought it would be fun.”

She said, “We went to Paris for three or four days, and while there we went to the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, the lock bridge, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, shopping, we stayed at a disgusting hotel, we took the metro around and we just did typical tourist stuff. The coolest thing ever was the Eiffel Tower.”

Spurgin said, “The students seemed to like it, despite being away from their home and friends that long.”

Leaping to Lyon

After Paris, the group went to Lyon and stayed with their host families. Hanahan said, “We did a chocolate-making course, a cooking class, visited a few museums and saw the Mona Lisa, which is very small; it’s not what you would expect of it.”

Junior Mary Kate Temple went on the trip as well. She said, “I didn’t really know what was going to happen when we went to Lyon, because I’ve never really heard about it or seen it, but I thought it was more beautiful than Paris just because we got to spend more time there. I really enjoyed making new friends in France and enjoyed spending time with all of the people that went to France because we bonded together, and we learned more French.”

Hanahan said, “I stayed with both of my exchange students each for a week and their families were very, very cool. When they came (to the United States) they would come to school a lot, but (in Lyon) we barely went. It was very different. When the teacher walks in everyone stands up until the teacher makes it to their desk, and you can’t have your phone out, you can’t have food and you can’t really talk to people. The desks are terrible and you are in the same room all day, and the teachers rotate.”

For lunch, everyone would go home to eat. Hanahan said they also participated a high ropes course and other excursions in the afternoons.

She said, “I was expecting to have a good experience, improve my competence and meet the families. In those regards, (the trip) absolutely met my expectations, and I was really surprised by the simplicity of life there. (In France) everything is very old, like the buildings, nothing is modern. It was really interesting to see French culture, but I’m really glad that I do not live (there).”

Temple said, “I’ve always wanted to go to France, and that’s partly the reason why I took French. I’ve hosted two exchange students, one my freshman year and one my sophomore year. I became really good friends with my exchange student sophomore year, and so I got to stay with him, and I got to see all of the other exchange students that were there. I learned about the culture, and it’s very different from America.”

Different cultures

Hanahan said she noticed many differences between France and the United States as well.

She said, “They use public transportation to get everywhere. We do not do that here; everybody drives a car. The buildings, shops and style are different. The food and culture when eating with the families were different. They all smoke cigarettes.”

Spurgin said, “My favorite part is always being able to have students learn more about the culture, try to use as much French as possible (and) watching them grow and accepting and embracing a different country.”

Hanahan’s favorite part was the Eiffel Tower. She said, “The vibe in Paris at night was very cool. I also liked spending time with Marie’s (her first exchange student) family and Clemence’s, too (her second exchange student).”

For students who may consider attending this trip in the future, Spurgin said, “Study French. Really think about going and participating in the exchange, because it is a cultural and language experience. One thing that is a benefit of the exchange is that when you return back to the United States, you have a better appreciation for what we have here, (such as) the little things we take for granted.”

Hanahan said her comprehension of French improved a lot, and she made really good memories.

Temple said, “I improved my French, and I definitely made a lot of new friends and connections. I liked learning about their culture and how they live out their daily lives.”

Spurgin said, “(This trip) opens up the opportunity for students to learn about different people and to know that the French language is a very viable, important language; it is a working business language. It brings the classroom to life, and I think also another benefit is it opens doors for our students to make new friends and hopefully to continue relationships.”

Journey to Africa

Another impactful trip that the school offers involves the two-week long trip to Tanzania in Africa.

Seniors Sarah Bielski and Myra Miller were two who experienced this opportunity to go to Tanzania.

Miller said, “The first few days we were in Tanzania, we visited the Awet secondary school in Arusha. When we didn’t visit the school, we went on two safaris, and that was breathtaking. On our first safari, we were able to see a lioness kill a wildebeest, which I thought was a once-in-a lifetime thing.”

The students also went to Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park and the rest of the trip they volunteered at orphanages.

Miller said, “The main orphanage I volunteered at was the Msamaria. The last day we were there we visited a coffee plantation in Kilimanjaro, and we visited a waterfall.”

She continued, “It was an unbelievable experience and opportunity that my parents gave me because it opened up my eyes to realize how the other part of the world lives because all these kids had poor living conditions, and I get the opportunity to go home, take a shower, eat as much food as I want and basically all these little things I take for granted, and I didn’t realize that until I visited there. It was just a great opportunity.”

Bielski said, “It was very life changing. I got to see what it was like to live in a third world country type of area. I got a whole new perspective on labor and how important it is to give back to people who don’t have the (same opportunities) like we have.”

She said, “It was a really cool opportunity that Cathedral offered, and I didn’t think I’d ever be offered something like this again. The fact that I got to go on this trip with some of my friends made it even cooler.”

Miller’s favorite part was just getting the time to spend with the kids. She said, “They find enjoyment in the simplest things. It just warms my heart.”

Bielski said, “I went to Haiti on a medical mission trip my sophomore year, but going to a second place helped me realize how different people are all over the world.”

Miller said, “I was kind of nervous of what to expect because I’ve never been out of the country before, but I was also very excited because I got to travel the world with some of my good friends, and then coming out of the trip, I was even closer friends with everyone on the trip. I loved life, because the kids and Tanzania really changed my perception on the world and how I should live my life.”