Temporary guidelines will govern student trips to France and Germany
By Cassidy Scherzer, Current Staff
For the first time since 2018, students at the West Bend High Schools are traveling on international language trips. However this year, it looks a little different.
Some junior and senior members of German and French classes at the high school will travel to the corresponding country for the first time since before COVID-19. The students leave on Wednesday and Thursday for a unique trip with temporary guidelines that are new this year. There is a plan to lift these guidelines for upcoming trips.
Typically the WBHS foreign language programs partake in an exchange with students in corresponding countries. West Bend students spend a week of their summer trip residing in the home of a student in the country they are visiting. Then in the fall, West Bend language students host an international student in their home. However, due to COVID-19, the exchange aspect of this trip was not possible this year.
“When we started planning the trip over a year ago we didn’t know what Covid would do so we made it just a tour instead as we felt there would be less exposure to Covid if our group was together more and not spread out in families,” French teacher Christi Fischer said.
Many students in the language programs hold similar disappointment.
“I’m sad I am not able to experience the exchange because I feel that it would be beneficial for me as well as help me gain a friend from a foreign country, which many people cannot experience,” said Emma Tews, an East senior and French student.
East senior Sarah Schmidt studies German and has extended family that participated in the exchange years ago, so she knows what she’s missing.
“Both of my older cousins did the exchange part and they are still friends with (their exchange students) now,” Schmidt said. “It would have been a cool opportunity to have a friend that lives in Germany and to have that connection.”
The lack of exchange is not the only difference this year. The groups have also altered their destinations.
Fischer says the trip to France will include Paris as usual, but not the French Alps, which is traditionally part of the experience. Instead, the group will visit Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley.
“I’ve never done a (Germany) trip in which we didn’t have host days in it,” German teacher Corey Petzold said. “We’ve always spent time in Heppenheim, which is our sister city, and we’re not going this year.”
Additionally, in a normal year, these exchange trips take place every other year in the beginning of the summer and involve sophomores and juniors. This year, however, the trip is taking place over spring break and involves juniors and seniors. The trip moved to spring in order to give seniors the opportunity to attend before graduation.
Both Fischer and Petzold confirmed that the plan is that all of these changes will return to normal in upcoming years.
“I think that we all hope to return to ‘normal’ after this trip but if we’ve learned anything over the past few years it’s that Covid is unpredictable,” Fischer said. “I hope we can go back to a family stay but we will have to see what the future holds.”
Many students attending this trip have been taking a language for seven or eight years and have grown familiar with the program and teachers.
“I’ve been taking German since fifth grade. It’s so important to me and I look forward to class every day and I always have,” Schmidt said. “I’m so beyond excited for the trip. I have looked forward to this every single day for eight years. I’ve seen all the pictures and heard stories and am so excited to experience it in real life, finally. It’s once in a lifetime.”
Tews says that she will never forget the memories from class and the “close-knit” family that was formed after many years learning French.
Typically the Spanish classes attend a trip of their own as well. However, that was not possible this year.
“I did plan a trip for this summer to Panama, but it was not approved by administration,” Spanish teacher Brenda Henschel said. “At the time I was planning the trip the advisory level for Panama was at a three and it needs to be at a two or below for approval. Panama has been at a level two since last October, so I am going to propose the trip that I wanted to do this summer for the summer of 2024. I am hopeful that our trip will get approved this time!”
(Top image: La Tour Eiffel vue de la Tour Saint-Jacques, 2014. Photo courtesy of Yann Caradec, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)