By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — Twenty-five high school students at Shenendehowa recently got a practical extension of their classroom via a trip to Italy.
Keziah Armstrong and Jenn Armstrong, both Latin teachers at the high school, took a group of their students abroad on a trip sponsored by the school for 10 days over winter break, from Feb. 14 to Feb. 24. The trips have been running since 2004.
Shen sponsors around four trips each year to different parts of the world, Keziah Armstrong said. Some are held over winter break, and the others over spring break. The Italy trip is primarily directed at the school’s Latin students, but can go.
“It’s when history comes alive,” she said.
The stops on the trip reflect that mentality. The group traveled to various historic landmarks in the cities they visited. They started in Florence, then Lucca, and finally to Rome. Along the way, the group saw the Tower of Pisa, the Vatican, and the Uffizi Gallery.
The students also stopped by the island of Capri, and learned how to make mozzarella cheese at a cheese factory in Sorrento.
Keziah Armstrong said that visiting the Tower of Pisa was favorite for the students.
The tour was designed to focus on historical aspects, but also some other lighthearted activities were scheduled to keep the students from becoming overwhelmed.
The school trip is the first time abroad for many students, she said, and having teachers and tour guide there to act as a buffer is a way for them to learn, but also not become bogged down by the trials of travelling alone.
“It can be completely overwhelming,” she said. “I am a firm believer in this type of travel because you’re taken from place to place and you don’t really have to think about anything because there’s already so much that you have to think about.”
Despite the amazing views, and the sampling of regional food and gelato, the trip was still draining. Two days were dedicated completely to travel via plane, and the group walked a total of 80 miles over 10 days.
The students, Keziah Armstrong said, were up early every day.
“These kind of tours are kill and drill,” she said. “You’re up at 8 and we don’t get back until 9 at night, because you’re not there to sit in a hotel room.”
But one of the most important aspect of the trip, both of the teachers agreed, was the fact that students return more independent, and with a wider understanding of the world.
Upon returning to the United States, many of the students start planning opportunities to go abroad in college
“It ignites this passion in them to travel,” Keziah Armstrong said. “It fosters independence.”
Jenn Armstrong added that the trips bring students out of their shells. The students don’t necessarily know their fellow travelers when the trip starts, and she thinks that not having the pressure to fit in with friends is a huge factor in why the trips are fun
“They could really be themselves,” she said. “It’s so nice to see them in the hallways still hanging out.”
But since Jenn Armstrong has been on the trip many times, she noted that the most rewarding part for her as a teacher comes after the trip has ended, when students tell her that they made new friends, and that they can’t wait to try even more new things.
“Things you wouldn’t even think of trying, the kids get to experience,” she said. “To me, that’s one of those moments as a teacher where you know you’ve done something.”
Keziah Armstrong agreed.
“We do it because it’s an awesome experience for the kids,” she said.