Many teenagers look forward to getting older and being able to travel the world. Luckily for Hunterdon Central’s students, they are provided with the opportunity to visit different countries as teenagers! This is thanks to the student educational tours our school offers. If traveling is a luxury you can afford, and you are interested in it, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go on one of them.
Over winter break, I went to Paris and Madrid with ACIS educational tours. I was worried that traveling within a program would restrict and confine my experience in each country, but it was quite the opposite. Instead, we had a lot of free time to explore, practice the native language, and be immersed in the culture. In order to go out on our own, we needed a group of at least four people, but our little group grew larger and larger as the days went on and we made more friends. I would recommend going with at least one person you know, a friend, an acquaintance that you’re comfortable with, and expand from there. It’s incredibly easy to make friends when you’re alone in a foreign country together, and those experiences form relationships that continue when you come back to the states.
As a sophomore, I shouldn’t have even been on this trip. I only found out about this tour because the group leader happened to be my Spanish teacher. Typically, these tours are offered only to juniors and seniors, however I was one of the lucky underclassmen who got to go on it. The trip was on and off for about 12 months because of COVID, so none of the students going on the trip were really excited to go until we were on the plane, taking off to Paris. It was surreal and hard to believe that we were actually going to Europe after it was on the verge of being canceled the entire time leading up to it. None of us knew each other, we were just put in a foreign country together and somehow- surprisingly, we all got along well and ended up being friends.
In Paris, we were constantly shopping. Everywhere we went, there was something to buy, a souvenir that reminded you of someone’s home, something you wanted just to prove that you were in Paris. There was this one particular time that my friend and I were roaming around the Champs-Élysées with the group. We decided we wanted to get some expensive perfume and we both dropped €120, but it was worth it. I mean, we were in Paris after all! There was so much to see in Paris, the Opera House, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, Montmartre, the Christmas Market, Shakespeare and Company, and of course, the Eiffel Tower. We were so tired every day when we got back to our hotel in Paris. The days were packed with exploring, shopping, learning, and sightseeing. We had a lot on our minds, and more in our stomachs. The food in Paris was exquisite, we all got to try new things- yes, including escargot.
Madrid certainly had a different feel to it. There weren’t as many famous landmarks as there were in Paris, but that didn’t make it any less exciting. We saw La Plaza de Toros, el Museo del Prado, la Plaza Mayor. There was definitely more free time for us in Madrid to go exploring. Because there were fewer of the “must-sees”, we got to find our own monuments. My friends and I went to a restaurant called El Museo de Jamon, and we stayed there for two hours eating everything we could. From paella to ham with melon, we ate anything they put in front of us. A couple of us stayed at the hotel the night that we landed, and some of us went out to see the lights and the livelihood of the city. We got churros, we saw street dancers and musicians, we walked for blocks just aimlessly wandering until it was time to turn around and go back.
If you want to travel, if you want to see the culture of other countries and see the world, these educational tours might just be for you. It’s a different experience going with your family versus going with your peers. As much as I love my family, I would say it was more fun traveling with my friends. Therefore, if you’re interested in the student educational tours, just go for it! It’s the experience of a lifetime and I would definitely recommend.