French and Italian Students Use their Classroom Skills While Studying Abroad Over Spring Break


Gabrielle Daley, Contributing Reporter

“The world is a book. Those who do not travel only read one page.” Beginning with a flight to Italy on April 12, six juniors and seniors began reading some of the most romantic and historical pages in the book of the world – France and Italy. French students Nicole Abel, Greta Rainville, Krista Galetta and Italian students Julianna Ricciardi, Erin Gladu and Milena Zuffelato were given the opportunity to travel abroad for a week with French teacher Ms. Moore and Italian teacher Mrs. Switzer and paraprofessional Ms. Roy.

“We both love what we do in the classroom, but the point really is to get out there and know people, to have a better understanding of how the world works. It has been my dream to take students abroad,” said Ms. Moore. Her dream to give students the chance to see that the world is bigger than it seems came true on Maundy Thursday with the group’s arrival in the famous, canal-woven Venice.

West Springfield High School’s travelers were able to spend Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday in Italy. Being the seat of Catholicism, the high school students and teachers were able to experience one of the most beloved countries at its busiest and most special time of year. On Friday, the group was able to take a gondola ride through the canals and walk through Doge’s Palace in Venice. Their time in celebratory Venice was followed by an adventure to Verona, where they saw a courtyard balcony that gave birth to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and also to Florence, a city Mrs. Switzer was most delighted to return to, having studied there in college, where they visited a leather manufacturing facility.

The group then took an hour long bus ride to Siena through the hillsides of Tuscany, where they were about to see rolling pastures, and get an idea of the geography of that portion of Italy. On their day-trip in Siena, they visited the cathedral and the students got to walk the crooked, cobblestoned streets up to the piazza. “Our trip to Siena was the most magical time we had in Italy,” Mrs. Switzer said. Their time in Italy ended with a day at the most popular tourist attracted city in Europe, Pisa, where the students were able to check the Leaning Tower off of their bucket-lists and see the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

After a long yet beautiful bus ride along the Mediterranean Riviera and seeing it’s beautiful cliffs and waters, the group arrived in Nice, France. Nice is a quaint, slow and fetching city that the travelers were able to spend time in as they went for walks and dipped their feet into the sea. Later, they ventured to a medieval village where French people sold flowers on the streets called Eze and they toured a perfume factory. “Our introduction to France felt much more authentic than some of the other places we went which seemed tourist-driven. Nice was an actual city where people went about their lives while Pisa was more of an Epcot Center,” Mrs. Switzer remarked.

The French and Italian squad spent a day in Monaco where they experienced authentic foods from the area, such as mussels, salade niçoise and fresh pasta for lunch in the bright sunlight. “I love southern France and was really delighted to be back there with my students because I studied there as a high schooler,” Ms. Moore commented.

From there, they took a train to Paris. However, their time there was cut short and they rushed to make the most of it while also fighting exhaustion. The abroad students saw a glowing Paris unfold before their eyes when they took the TGV during the day: a high speed bullet train that travels 200 miles per hour. They visited the Louvre, which is the largest museum in the world, took pictures next to the Mona Lisa, and saw the sunset against the museum’s glass pyramid. “I would want to visit the Louvre a few times because it’s massive, and we only got to see one wing of artwork when there is three. There is so much to see in that building but so little time,” junior Julianna Riccardi said. The next day they saw the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame and felt like princesses and queens as they toured the Palace of Versailles. The trip ended with a cruise down the Seine River and of course a trip to the observation deck of the Eiffel tower where they got to see the beauty of Paris one last time before arriving home on April 21, 2017. Ms. Moore added, “I felt like the students really got to see the diversity of France’s geography from the bus ride by the Mediterranean Riviera and their experience in the capital city.”

Not only is traveling abroad a perfect opportunity to witness the enormity of the world, but it is a key factor in learning a language. Julianna Riccardi explained that she used her Italian skills and knowledge while ordering meals and used basic social norms when speaking to cashiers, strangers and tour guides. “The driving force behind curriculum in foreign language classrooms is ‘I will teach you these words but what will you do with them? Can you order food in a restaurant, can you express your opinions, can you ask for help in a store, can you take a bus?’ I think taking kids somewhere and letting them loose a little bit in the city is very satisfying,” Mrs. Switzer remarked. Ms. Moore also believes that it’s important for students learning a language to use their French and Italian, make mistakes but still undergo a successful transaction with a native no matter how uncomfortable and intimidating the situation. “They learn and they are able to see that they can actually do something with their knowledge. It is very empowering,” the French teacher said.

Now that they have broken the ice with their successful trip, they are looking for more foreign travel opportunities in the department, like a trip to Spain. “I think that it’s important for students try out what they’ve learned, and ultimately when they come back feeling successful when they endeavored to speak a foreign language in a different country, it will boost their confidence in the classroom. My dream is for them to feel inspired to take another language in college,” Mrs. Switzer remarked. Next April, they will be going to French-speaking Quebec, Canada. They are also hoping to plan a trip to Switzerland, where Italian, French, and German are spoken, in 2019. If ever given the option to travel abroad in life, take it and see all the wonderful places it can bring you.