Students gear up for Peru with 'willingness to engage'
When Jacqueline Frawley was a child, she took the globe her cousin gave her and studied the different countries, tracing her finger along borders and feeling the raised-bump mountain ranges.
It wasn't until the Forest Grove High School student joined the Forest Grove Adventure Club, though, that she had the chance to explore some of those countries and mountains.
The adventure club is not an official school club — the FGHS administration supports the club but does not sponsor it. But FGHS students and staff members compose the group, which nearly two years ago traveled to Italy. Last year, students went on a European tour that hit Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. For spring break 2018, they're going to Peru.
More than 60 students went on last year's trip, and about 50 are going to Peru.
Frawley joined the Adventure Club as a freshman and went to Italy as a sophomore.
"I've always been into learning about other countries," said Frawley, who had traveled to other states and Canada but had never been overseas before. "I thought, 'This is just something I have to do.'"
When Frawley arrived in Italy after months of planning, she was in awe of the city water fountains that are constantly running, found it amazing that most people don't own cars and loved trying new foods. She went to Rome and the Coliseum and Venice. She bought souvenirs and had them blessed by Pope Francis in Vatican City. She toured the Trevi Fountain at night, then enjoyed a pistachio gelato nightcap.
"It all came down to a completely different lifestyle," Frawley said. "You get to be a part of it — the culture, the language."
The trip, as well as the fundraising efforts leading up to it, helped Frawley feel more independent, she said. It also brought out leadership and communication skills she didn't know she possessed.
"You branch out of your comfort zone," she said. "It's a good feeling."
That's what language arts teacher Danielle Restuccia, the club's co-adviser, was hoping for.
"That's the power of travel," Restuccia said. "It opens up your perspective and world view."
Restuccia took the chance to travel to Mexico and Spain in high school and lived in Ecuador for a while in college.
Now 32, Restuccia leads the group of young FGHS travelers with fellow language arts teacher Andrew Garrett. On the trips, she's been impressed with the students' willingness to engage with new people and communication attempts despite language barriers.
"They appreciate the opportunity to see something new they wouldn't have otherwise gotten to see," she said. "And they get to do that with friends."
Many of the student travelers have expressed interest in studying abroad in college or working overseas one day, Restuccia said, so introducing them to travel in a safe environment often breeds a life-long interest in exploring and living in new places.
"Traveling outside the country for the first time can be scary and overwhelming when you don't know the language or the norms," Restuccia said, so traveling with friends and teachers students know, with an experienced tour guide leading the way, can be calming.
Travel "enriches people personally and professionally and teaches them to not be scared to do something new," Restuccia said. "Our world is shrinking with the global economy. And the ability to work with people who are different from me is always a valuable skill."
FGHS student Cecilia Calderon-Duyck had been to Costa Rica several times to visit family but wanted to explore other places, too, so she signed up for the European tour last year. Two things stood out to her on the trip: How difficult it is to learn another language and how history can affect the future.
Calderon-Duyck visited World War II concentration camps in Germany, as well as bunkers from both world wars.
"It was absolutely, honestly crazy but also really interesting to see," she said. "I understood everything we had read about in books in history class."
The experience made her reflect on life, Calderon-Duyck said.
"You think about how cruel people can be and how it could actually happen, not just in books," she said. "It was real life."
Both Calderon-Duyck and Frawley are gearing up to set forth again and are fundraising for the Peru trip. Students will visit Lima, the country's largest city; the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu; the Coricancha temple, arguably the most important temple of the Inca Empire; the Incan Sacsayhuaman fortress; the Andes mountains, and much more.
Restuccia is particularly excited for the young travelers to see Peru because students don't always learn about the unique history of that region in depth at school.
"The beauty of the region is breathtaking," she said.
"I'm excited to go on another trip because I don't really know what to expect," said Frawley, who recently purchased a book about Peru she plans to read cover-to-cover. "I definitely feel more engaged learning about this stuff" when planning to travel there.
"It makes it all so much more exciting."
By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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