NRHS International Club takes trip to Europe
For more than 20 years, the New Richmond High School International Club has given high school students and recent graduates the chance to experience life and learn about the history of other countries.
“The club is a vehicle for kids to branch outside of the school and learn more about the cultures, languages and history that they get in class,” said NRHS social studies teacher Josh Fiege. “The goal is to do some international travel and educate the kids. So, it isn’t just a straight up vacation. When the kids go, they get everything. The full language, the full culture and the full history of a location.”
This year’s trip saw 25 kids and four chaperones travel to Europe to see Italy and its neighboring countries. The last International Club group to take a trip spent time in Ireland, England and France. The group spent 11 days in Italy, Germany and a few other countries in Europe from June 16-26.
The group travels with a company called Education First, which has a goal of exposing kids to the educational aspects of the places they travel to. The club has a rotating membership so that different students get the chance to go on the trip every two years.
“It is tough to maintain the membership for more than two years since only the kids going on the trip are really interested in coming to the club meetings,” Fiege said. “It isn’t like a normal club like forensics, but there was a pretty dedicated group of kids who went this time.”
When the group met each month over the two-year preparation period, Fiege and the other chaperones helped teach the kids all about the places they visited as well as what things to expect from the big cities and different cultures that they came across while on the trip.
“During club meetings, we educate the kids for what they will experience during the trip and prepare them for all the things that the trip entails,” Fiege said. “We bump up our meeting schedule to once a week about four months out from the trip. We do a history and culture lesson for specific locations and cities so the kids will know what they will be seeing so it isn’t all new to them and so they can know where to look to see the things they want to.”
The cost for the trip, according to Fiege, can be anywhere between $2,800 and $3,600 and depends on where the group wants to go and how early a kid signs up for the trip.
“We flew into Rome and saw all the ancient culture locations, like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and other places like that,” Fiege said. “We got to see the Vatican while the Pope was there and we even got to see the papal apartments, which is part of the Vatican that hadn’t been open to the public. That was a really cool experience. But from the time the kids got there until they leave, they were go-go-go.”
After Rome, the group traveled around Italy where they saw many different artists’ works and ended up in the Alps where they stayed in the Olympic Village from the 1976 Olympics.
“We hiked a day in the Alps the day we were scheduled to go on into Munich, so we ended up playing in the snow and walking through the Alps,” Fiege said. “It was actually one of the kids’ favorite days of the whole trip. The kids also got to see a concentration camp, which was a really powerful day for the kids.”
With all the different places the kids got to visit while on their trip, it isn’t hard to imagine that they were stunned to be seeing so many things that they had only heard about or seen in movies.
“I think the kids were stunned into silence by the size and scope of a lot of the things we saw while on the trip and probably a little overwhelmed too,” Fiege said. “Every city we went to and every place we stopped was the kids’ favorite until we got to the next stop, then that was their favorite.”
Even though the group just recently returned from its trip, Fiege and the other leaders of the International Club are already starting to plan the next trip they will be going on two summers from now.
“On the plane ride home, a lot of the kids were talking about how you can see the things they did on TV, read about it in books or have a teacher teach it to you, but you really don’t get the depth of it until you experience it,” Fiege said. “That is one of the keys to what makes this experiential learning so awesome. Just seeing the culture has really changed them because now they know what it is like in Italy and Germany. Even if they can’t remember every detail of their trip, they will remember the small things like what hotels are like there or the difference between the diet of people from southern Italy and northern Italy.”