China, Japan and Italy trips give students opportunities to see the world

Sarah Frieman, News Editor

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This upcoming February and March, selected students from Japanese, Mandarin, and Latin classes will put their language skills to use and travel abroad.

“One of our missions at ETHS is to make our students global citizens,” World Language Department Chair Rachel Gressel said. “Travelling abroad opens up curiosity and a new way of thinking.”

The trip to Italy runs from Feb. 9 – 22, including an excursion to Greece as well during that time. Michelle Green, the organizer for the trip, will take students there for the ninth time since 2000. Japanese students will travel Feb. 11 – 27. Trip organizer Michael Van Krey has been coordinating with a school in Japan for an exchange program since 1999, and has travelled with students 10 times.

“I’m excited to explore the country we have been studying for so long,” senior Japan trip participant Devenere Johnson said. “It is interesting to learn about a different place and compare it to the US.”

Although students will miss school for the Latin and Japanese trips, time will also be provided to complete schoolwork during the plane rides and study session times at night. Participants are required to have a history of organization and a hard work ethic in all of their classes, not just their language course.

“I am stressed about missing school, because I’m taking four AP classes,” junior Latin trip participant Emma Stein said. “Ultimately, the experience I gain from traveling will be worth it.”

This is the first year Treena Larson, the Mandarin teacher, will travel with students. The Chinese trip takes place over spring break. During the 2015 – 2016 school year, students in level two and three started preparation for the trip by learning about the culture, history and major attractions throughout China. Each student researched a city and shared a ten day travel itinerary to the class.

“There is a lot of vested interest in this trip,” Larson said. “It is almost entirely planned by students.”

Around 20 students attend each trip, accompanied by a teacher and another adult chaperone. Although each trip is completely different, they all provide students with engaging activities and immersive experiences surrounding the culture.

“When we travel, we are not only representing ETHS, but the United States,” Green said. “In our world climate right now, it’s a really important message to send.”

Mandarin students planned visits to national parks, Chengdu Panda Breeding Base, and many other outings around Beijing. In Japan, students will go on excursions all around while staying with homestay families. The Latin trip is going to multiple ancient archaeological sites and touring around Italy and Greece. For parts of the trips, students will get to blog and reflect on their experience together as a group.

“My sister and I are both adopted from China, so I’ve been there a few times,” sophomore Kathleen Finneran said. “It will be interesting to see the difference of traveling with my family, and traveling with the class.”

     Although overseas traveling can be expensive, the costs are reduced from the average price. Students who aren’t able to pay the full expense still have a chance to go, because of the chance to apply for scholarships and fundraise together as a group.

“Every student pays for what they can,” Van Krey said. “It’s the whole group’s responsibility to fundraise enough so that everyone can go.

ETHS offers other travel opportunities through languages, such as German, that does an exchange program over the summer. For sign language, although it’s not abroad, students can participate in an overnight trip to a college for the deaf. For 15 years, Spanish did an exchange program, but now provides a summer immersion trip through Global Visionaries to Guatemala.

     “The language department has a long history of sending students to travel internationally,” Gressel said.

     According to The Huffington Post, now it is more important than ever to travel abroad. Many jobs and businesses are in need of more globally minded people. The article also explains that traveling can be much more educational than sitting in a classroom and can teach important skills such as tolerance, self-sufficiency and resourcefulness.

“Learning a language goes hand in hand with learning about the culture,” Larson said. “The more exposed to the culture, the more your language will improve.”

As for other benefits to travelling, all three teachers explained that it opens your perspective on life and shows how different culture is in other places.

“There are concrete differences in just learning the language, and actually traveling,” Van Krey said. “Students will not only learn about the culture, but also learn about themselves.”

For many students the travel experience doesn’t end in high school. Some have expressed interest in going abroad in college or in their future career.

“During this trip, I want to meet new people and familiarize myself with the culture,” Johnson said. “I am thinking about going back to Japan in college, so I want to be comfortable.”