Cultural trips abroad enrich high school learning experience

By Dana Delgado

Suddenly, the world shrank and looked a lot different.

A trip abroad changed many things but affirmed others. For a select group of Liberty Hill High School students on a school-organized cultural trip, international travel has been a trip of a lifetime and for many, the beginning of something wonderful.

Last year, the second of the cultural trip program, 22 students ventured to London, Paris and Barcelona from June 12-19. Some were traveling on an airplane for the first time. Under the guidance of LHHS Foreign Language Department teachers Sandra Lucero, Erin Knapik, Jennifer Gonzalez and Mayra Maldonado, students lunched in London before heading to Paris where they visited the Palace of Versailles, the Louve, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe. They concluded their cultural trip in Barcelona, Spain.

“It was exciting,” said student traveler Maria Paredes. “Seeing the Eiffel Tower and just being there in Paris was very different. It’s made me appreciate architecture and other things much more and given me a different outlook on people, especially my peers.”

Junior Aubrey Covington was on her second cultural trip and said it  was “amazing and very exciting.”

“I had a great time especially traveling with my best friend,” said Miss Covington. “It was culture shock, but I felt independent and we got to explore some by ourselves. From the experience, I’ve decided I’d like to study abroad after high school.”

There is one incident, however, that made Miss Covington somewhat uncomfortable when she got “robbed by some gypsies.” The LHHS junior said a gypsy started to read their palms, reading every line on their hands and then gave them a flower. They then asked, or rather demanded, money. Unsure what to do, Miss Covington said she gave the gypsy money, but felt she’d been robbed.

Jessica Bussey said visiting the Eiffel Tower was “really cool.” The sophomore said she previously only traveled to Mississippi and the Carolinas before traveling abroad.

“The food was different in France,” said Miss Bussey.  “Speaking French was awkward especially when ordering food. We couldn’t Google translate fast enough. Some people laughed at us.”

Miss Bussey says the experience has made her more responsible and more independent among other things and has awakened her spirit to travel.

“The whole world has changed for me,” she said. “It’s different and has made me think more about stuff than before.”

According to Mrs. Lucero, the cultural trips were organized to travel to places that would enrich the student’s knowledge of culture and language learned in Spanish classes.

“It’s educational,” Mrs. Lucero said. “Besides, colleges and universities are looking for international experience.”

Generally, six to eight traveling students are assigned per teacher on the trips and each student has to fundraise to pay for the trip and expenses. Last year, students raised an average of $3,400 plus $500 for spending.

Interested sponsors or individuals wanting to make a donation to the educational trips should contact Mrs. Lucero at Liberty Hill High School. Trips are open to second year Spanish language students.

This year, 30 students will travel to Costa Rica July 2-10. They are scheduled to visit Tortuguero, a noted nesting ground for sea turtles and explore 11 different habitats. Their itinerary also includes a tour of Arenal, home to lakes, waterfalls, hot springs and a looming volcano.  In Guanacaste, they will find a unique collection of plants and animals against a backdrop of beaches and forested bluffs. A whitewater rafting trip and a canopy tour in Sarapiqui will cap the trip.

In the first LHHS cultural trip in 2012, nine students explored Spain July 9-18. They visited the Church of Santo Tome in Toledo and viewed the windmills of Consuegra in Granada, which were made famous by the adventures of Don Quixote, toured the Alhambra and took a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. The group also wandered in an 18th Century bullring in Ronda and then were amazed by the sights of Seville including the Gothic cathedral, the Giralda Tower and the Alcazar.

In Madrid, said Mrs. Lucero, “We ate like the locals, from restaurant to restaurant sampling Tapas and went to the Prado (Museum).”

For 2015, a spectacular trip is being organized for June 8-16 to Peru to see the natural splendor and learn about the country’s rich history and culture. Students will visit the roots of the Inca Empire in Cuzco and at Machu Picchu, a destination described by many as like no other on earth.