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Lopez students return from international journey
Bu Marne Cook
Islands' Weekly Intern
The Eiffel Tower shimmering in the night, the famous Mona Lisa, Hiroshima and its Peace Park and Atom Bomb Museum.
These are sights that students from Lopez Island High School recently viewed.
Every year, students have the opportunity to travel to a foreign country and learn about a different culture. China, France and Japan were the destinations for this year’s travelers.
The France group took off March 29. After making a quick stop in Iceland, they arrived in Paris and their journey began. The students made their way through history by visiting various sites including the Catacombs, the Louvre, the Eiffel tower, American Cemetery, a memorial site for all the American soldiers who died in World War two, and the Palace of Versailles, which housed King Louis XIV for a short time.
The Louvre was highly praised by several of the French club students. When they first arrived at the museum, Richard Tetu, the French teacher and advisor, told his students that they had only three hours to explore. Most of the students were slightly taken aback by the large quantity of time given them to see one museum. It wasn’t until they entered the building that they realized how three hours would never suffice to fully take in all of the masterpieces. “The Louvre was amazing and we barely saw a fraction of it,” says Brianne Swanson, a French student.
About mid-way into the French adventure, Lopez students were placed in the care of a French host family for five days.
“Besides the food, which was freaking amazing,” says Patience Taylor, another French student. “The home stay was my favorite part of the trip. It was really cool to be able to create friendships with people from a different country, even with the language barrier.”
When the students returned to Lopez they had nothing but joyful and positive words to say about the trip.
“Their open minds and hearts were always in evidence through their enthusiasm for new sites, new foods, and new experiences,” Tetu says.
Due to the generous funding from the Freeman Foundation, junior and seniors from Lopez Island High School have had the chance to go to Japan every year since 2001. The Japan travelers also get to visit many noteworthy sites. Hiroshima and its Peace Park and Atom Bomb Museum is just one of the many stops on their trip, which included an itenerary of temples, museums, historical places and shrines.
This year five students from Lopez Island and five students from Orcas were able to experience this foreign culture together. Annie Calonico, one of the Japan advisors said that it was an amazing experience to explore a new culture. Calonico also said “I loved getting to know both the Lopez and Orcas students on the trip.”
Of the students that were interviewed there was a common consensus that their experience was enlightening and full of fun. “Their culture is so different from America’s. It is one thing to read about a culture and study their customs and beliefs and it is another to live in that culture’s environment,” says Nia Bartolucci, a junior from Lopez Island High School and Japan traveler.
These students also had the privilege of staying in a local’s home.
“Although there were some communication difficulties, it still ended up being a wonderful experience,” Bartolucci says. “It was fun to figure out all the different ways to communicate without using words.”
This exploration was established to research how to create a service learning trip to China. The main focus of this trip was to build upon the local connection in the Guizhou province, a southwestern part of the country and the Guizhou Forerunner College.
The first stop was GFC and the Bright Angel College of the Blind. GFC is the first nonprofit college in China. It is located in a preserved area called the Scenic Bird Area. The college was founded to help blind students and ethnic minority students of the region. Guizhou Province is considered one of the most impoverished provinces of China. This is the first year for the college and the current enrollment is approximately 200 students with 32 blind students. Next year they expect to increase the enrollment to approximately 400 students, and will increase enrollment as each class is promoted.
In the week and a half they were in China, the travelers were able to interact, teach and learn from the college students and locals. After spending time at GFC the Lopez School representatives traveled to remote Miao villages and learned about other service learning projects for future trips. They had the opportunity to spend time in the homes of locals. “I had a really great time on the China trip,” says Breton Carter, a student. “My favorite part was meeting new people and spending time with them despite the language barrier.”
These trip will never be forgotten to all of those who were able to go, and give students learning experiences that can be acquired no other way.
There will be a committee formed to discuss future plans of traveling to China. Contact Superintendent Bill Evans at 468-2219 ext. 2350 for more info.