When In Europe…


Students enjoy a relaxing moment in Italy while shopping from local vendors and visiting museums. (Photo Courtesy of Alda Cornec)

A group of foreign language students had traveled to France and Italy this past summer, experiencing moments that will last a lifetime with French teacher, Alda Cornec. This trip had been in the planning since the 2019-2020 school year, but because of COVID and travel restrictions the trip had to be rescheduled.

Cornec planned the trip with Shawna Guikema, a French teacher at Warren Hills Middle School, and two parents. There were a total of 21 students in attendance, consisting of both current and graduated students, due to the two-year delay of the trip. 

From the very start, students noticed the differences between Europe and the United States.

      “[One major difference] I noted is the clothing and street and store etiquette. You don’t say ‘how are you’ because that’s too deep a conversation,” said senior Emilie McGrory. “A simple ‘hi’ is all they do.”

Another fact that the travelers had to learn the hard way was that there was no chance for jaywalking, as the cars would truly run you over if given the chance.

The group realized this when they were exploring Paris and Nice, where they were given free time to shop, eat, and explore the different centers they visited.

Throughout the bus ride tours, the students were busy filling up their camera rolls to remember every last detail. While the sightseeing was keeping to true American fashion, the biggest adjustment was getting used to the time differences and having to wake up at either five or six in the morning on certain days, with the rare occasion of sleeping in until seven. 

“If there was one thing I could change, it would’ve been the time we woke up,” said junior Mark Philip. “It was painful having to wake up at five a.m. every day just to fall asleep again on the bus tours.” 

  Yet, everything was forgiven the day the group had the chance to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. The crystal blue waters were real and not a photographic lie they had seen when Googling the beaches, and the group made sure to soak up every bit of the beach day that was planned.

“I really loved swimming in Nice, except for the part that I lost my purse…that wasn’t fun,” said Mary Levy

After seeing the Mediterranean, the group set off for a six-hour train ride to see both the French and Italian countryside on the fastest train in Europe: the AGV.  The group also got to indulge in local cuisine. 

“Italian pizza was so simple, yet quite delicious and not greasy,” said senior Lana Clesca. “And pastries in France are so fresh, rich and decadent.”

       During their trip to Italy, the students also explored the city of Florence freely, and by the end of the day, they knew the city, like the back of their hands.  

       “Florence was a really fun part of the trip. Not just because of the shopping trip, but because we were able to do whatever we wanted for the entire day,” alumna Maggie Alder said.

By the end of the trip, everyone was ready to go back home; except the group’s flight home got canceled and that resulted in a surprise trip and a two-day delay in Munich, Germany, where they had to travel to catch a flight home. 

There were, understandably, some people who got upset about the diversion to Germany.

        “I did not expect the storm to have us stuck in Germany, I didn’t think it would be that bad to not even go home,” said alumna Carly Roth.

Chaperone Shawna Guikema, however, said she enjoyed the surprise change in itinerary. 

         “I loved the ‘staycation’ in Germany,” she said. “It was awesome!” 

        Yet, the group made the best of what was assumed to be the worst part, and two days later, they finally headed home with their bags and lots of memories. 

   As for applying their foreign language skills, alumna Cameron Dunn summed it up best.

“Even knowing the simplest words in a different language,” she said, “can get you on very easily.”