By Natalie Delcorps
According to St. Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” Twenty-three students from Batavia awaited a flight to France at the start of Spring Break for a trip of a lifetime, traveling to five different places in and near France. Even though this trip was with Pamela Spencer, a French world languages teacher and Batavia High, it was not sponsored by the school.
“Travel changes lives. I think it is so important to see how other people live and what other cultures value,” said Spencer. “I really have seen how people come even from this brief experience with different priorities, strong desire to go back, and spend some time really immersed in the culture. I really hope people’s world view changes when we experience these things.”
All of the students going on the trip were juniors and seniors in a French IV or V class. To be eligible to take part in the trip, they were required to have been studying French and the French culture for at least three or four years and after all of that time were able to get immersed into the culture.
“My favorite part about the trip was seeing all of the things I’ve been learning about since French I,” said senior Olivia Clarey. “I’ve been studying the history, culture, and so much more, seeing it all in person was astounding. I remember stepping into Chartes Cathedral and losing my breath. The gorgeous stained glass windows, and the beautifully crafted labyrinth in the center of the cathedral created the most wonderful, overwhelming feeling. It’s amazing to learn so much about a place and finally see it come to life.”
During the nine-day expedition, the group stayed in five different places. They took bus and high-speed train to get from Paris to the south. Then they stayed in Paris, Trouville in Normandy, Tours (in the Loire), Nimes and Nice (Provence).
“We started in Trouville for two nights,” said junior Abby Kehe. “I really liked the north. It wasn’t cold, but I liked it because it was historical. Then we went down to Paris for three days. It was really busy, but so cool. We saw everything you could possibly see in Paris. After that, we went to the South. I liked the South more than Paris because it’s right on the Mediterranean, which is beautiful. It was definitely more relaxed. We had a tour guide, Lou, come with us the whole time. My favorite thing was the independent feeling you got from traveling. I was with all of my friends and chaperones, but I felt apart from parents.”
The group partook in four hands-on experiences. They participated in pétanque (which is like bocce ball), a cooking lesson, visited a place where goat cheese was made, and visited a perfumery. Each student was able to make their own perfume or cologne. Those excursions were a special favorite for Spencer because they had so many experiences within the French culture.
“I’ve been to France at least 20 times. I came to Batavia in 1994 and go with the students to France every other year,” said Spencer. “My main motivation to travel with students is how excited they are to see what they’ve studied and to use their language skills.”
Every year there is a cultural project in each French class. To name a few, there have been projects on famous sights to see in Paris, famous French painters and artists, and all of the countries and territories corresponding with the Francophonie.
“Traveling abroad is important because it’s important to see and experience new things,” said senior Celine Auriemma. “When we travel abroad, we’re stepping outside of our comfort zone and putting ourselves in the shoes of someone else. I think it’s important to travel because you get the opportunity to see things in a new perspective; someone else’s perspective. It’s definitely an enlightening experience and not only do you learn so much about the lives of others, you also learn a lot about yourself.”