As the 2013-14 school year came to a dwindling end, a group of 12 Blue Valley students and two teachers began preparing for a trip of a lifetime. English Language Arts teacher Tierney Weed and business teacher Ashley Scheuerman chaperoned the trip.
Last summer, from June 10-19, 2014, BV students took part in the
Education First (EF) trip, where they had a tour guide who stayed with the group throughout the trip.
The company also provided a local tour guide, who showed all the local tourist attractions in each city.
According to the EF website, the company was founded in 1965 by an entrepreneur named Bertil Hult. The company is privately owned and offers services from language travel to degrees in cultural exchanges.
Their mission is to “open the world through education.”
The trip was a part of the EF company’s learning abroad package that allows students and their teachers to go explore the world. BV is one of the 500 schools and offices in more than 52 countries that EF operates in.
The educational tour requires students to be between the ages of 14 and 18, and the length of the trip averages between 6 to 31 days. The educational tour provides teachers the ability to incorporate international travel into their lesson plans and let students experience the best historic, cultural and natural sites in the world. EF offers more than 400 itineraries to Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
The trip was open to all BV students.
“I found out about the trip because I had Ms. Weed as a teacher last year, and she had some information on her board about the trip to Europe,” sophomore Sydney Van Ophem said. “I also had Mrs. Scheuerman as my golf coach, and she also invited me on the trip.”
Van Ophem said she decided to go because her family travels abroad a lot, but she had not been to Wales or Dublin yet, so she thought it would be interesting to go on the trip.
Sophomore Madison Keucker also decided to go as well after seeing information in Weed’s classroom.
“I’m not a frequent traveler, but I thought that it would be a fun but also a new experience,” Keucker said.
Trip-goers were guided on a tour of many places in Europe.
“We flew to Dublin, Ireland, and then we took a ferry from Dublin to Wales. Then we drove from Wales to London and took a chunnel from London to Paris,” junior Rachel Trout said.
Van Ophem said she saw many interesting things on her trip.
“In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was closed since we went around 10 [p.m.], but it was beautiful seeing it lit up with the sun setting,” Van Ophem said.
The group got the opportunity to meet TV stars Bridgit Mendler and Shane Harper.
Van Ophem said she met TV stars Bridgit Mendler and Shane Harper at a London train station. Juniors Sam Golbach and Colby Brock initiated the conversation over their Vine account. The TV stars were in London for a wedding.
]Keucker said she thought everything was interesting.
“The different people’s cultures and how they reacted to us in general [was interesting], because we were American and in their country,” Keucker said.
Students viewed the different cultural aspects.
“[We] got to stay in hotels,” Van Ophem said. “We were never there except for sleeping. Some of [the hotels] were nice, and some of them weren’t. The one in Paris was really bad. In London it was a four star, the Paris one was a one star because it was a bed and breakfast, but they didn’t serve us breakfast. In Dublin, it was a pretty nice hotel. We couldn’t get service in our rooms, so we had to go out into to the lobby, but it was still OK. In Wales, we only had to stay for one night, so it was manageable.”
Keucker said that she faced some problems while away.
“In Paris, there was the language barrier, but I take French at school, so it wasn’t that bad. A lot of people there speak English anyways— it is just obviously not as good, and the different currencies was something to get used to,”Keucker said.
According to the website, travelers have benefited from the EF company planning the whole trip ahead of time.
“The trip taught me a lot of responsibility because you are there without your family,” Keucker said. “Also, being able to take care of yourself while in another country was also really nice. I am used to doing most things for myself, so it wasn’t that hard.”
Van Ophem said she enjoyed the structure of the trip.
“I thought it was good to know that I had everything already taken care of, and we didn’t have to worry about plane tickets, hotels and food,” Van Ophem said. “I am used to my parents taking care of all of that for me, so when it came to going by myself, it was a lot more reassuring”
Students were allowed to explore the cities on their own.
“To make sure everyone was safe, we traveled in buddy systems,” Van Ophem said. “We got three or four hours every day where we could go out and explore the cities.”
Keucker said she enjoyed the trip.
“At first going into it, I didn’t really know anyone, and I wasn’t really close with anyone. Then as time went on, you become closer with the whole group, which was really nice,” Keucker said. “[Leaving my family] wasn’t hard, but toward the end I did kind of get home sick. Overall it was an amazing experience, I would recommend it to other people.”