Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Thailand Wrap-up

First some photos, then some closing words from our students! Most photos were also taken by the students!!

As my first trip outside of the U.S. (Bc Canada doesn’t count), Thailand will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Before this trip, I never thought that I would zip line. In fact, for most of the trip, up until when we arrived at the zip lining facility, I was contemplating on whether or not I was willing to take the risk, whether I was brave enough to jump off from a high altitude and be suspended on a cable in the air. However, knowing that it would be a while until I got to experience zip-lining in a foreign country quickly took my feeling of fear away. Looking back, I am glad that I had the opportunity to try a fun-packed activity that was challenging, adrenaline-pumping, and confidence building all at the same time! 

One of the most memorable things about Thailand that I dearly missed once I got back home was its tasty cuisine. This made participating in a cooking class on the last day even more exciting and rewarding. After a trip to the local market and the garden, where herbs and fresh spices were grown, we later spent the latter half of the morning, preparing an array of mouthwatering dishes from Khaw Soi ( a soup-like fish) to spring rolls and Pad Thai (a stir-fry rice noodle dish). 

Overall, my experience in Thailand was amazing. For me, it opened my eyes to a whole new world, completely different from Virginia, and I was in complete awe of the place. With confidence, I can say that I would definitely go back to Thailand.

I really enjoyed the night safari and zipping. And I also liked seeing the giraffes up close when we first got to the night safari place. I was sad to have missed the silk studio because I was sick but I really enjoyed the cooking class on the last day! The flights back were veryyyyy long but I had an amazing time on the trip! - Bridget

Looking back on my experience in Thailand, I can honestly say it was indescribable. Having never been to Asia before I had no clue what to expect, but I finished the trip loving the culture of Thailand and its people. The food, the architecture, the people, everything was absolutely amazing. Every place we went, every experience we had are things I will never forget. One of my favorite and final memories of the trip was our last walk back to our hotel from the night market, it started as a peaceful walk until it started to pour. We got back to the hotel absolutely soaked, but happy none the less. Our cooking class was super fun as well, not to pat myself on the back but my pad thai was pretty bomb. All in all, it was such an amazing trip and I would recommend Thailand to anyone who is looking for a new experience.-Georgia

I really appreciated spending time and growing close with everyone on the trip and bonding together from our experiences on the trip. I really had fun at the night market buying souvenirs.
I had so much fun on the zip lines, hanging upside down flying across the river below! Wish I could do it again!

I had a great time finding gifts for my family at the night market. The next day, we went zip lining. I wasn't necessarily afraid, but I do get anxious around hights. Even though I wasn't brave enough to go upside down, I liked seeing the forest and waterfalls down below. The day of our flight, we squeezed in a Thai cooking class. I loved making and eating the pad thai, khao soi, and fried bananas from scratch. This Thailand trip had its highs and lows, but I will never forget my time in this wonderful country.

-Zak Zeledon

Chiang Mai was so much fun! From the cooking class, to the ziplining, temple visiting and everything in between it was fantastic. I had a great time in Thailand overall!


I really enjoyed the night safari. It was crazy to see zebras walking right next to our trolley, and we were also able to feed some of them! I also really enjoyed zip lining because the view was breathtaking. -- Rachel S

Ziplining upside down was incredible and the cooking class we went to on the last morning was super cool. I’m definitely going to use the cooking book to make Thai food for my family and I now. Overall the trip was awesome and I have some great memories from it like buying a ton of fake bags and sunglasses at night market with everyone.-Carroll

Friday, March 30, 2018

Classical Italy Day 10: Last Adventures

The day started with the most relaxing morning thus far. After a supposedly easy morning time of 9:00 am - that proved not to be so easy with the approaching enemies of daylight savings time and automatically locking rooms - we walked down to Piazza Navona to enjoy some free time around Rome as it was the first truly nice day of the trip. Once we regrouped (and after we went over our purchases which included books, movie posters, and expensive jackets) we were rushed back into the fast pace of the trip as we quickly walked to our next sight: the Domus Aurea.

Constructed in 64AD by the 5th Roman emperor, Nero, after he burned down most of Rome, the Domus Aurea (or Golden House) was meant to be a spectacular palace. However, it was buried by the emperor Titus when he constructed his baths and it was forgotten for centuries. This is the state we got to see the site in. Currently under restoration, the site is incredibly exclusive and being underground was incredibly cold (though we mostly enjoyed this due to the day's heat). Exploring the underground rooms and frescoes was absolutely amazing as we got to see both what the Domus Aurea looks like and what a site looks like while being restored. Sadly, though, we were only able to spend about an hour and a half there before we were whisked away to our next site on the Metro.

Inside the octagonal room of the Domus Aurea
After a successful metro ride we found ourselves on the Pincian Hill, a beautiful park that we were able to enjoy as we waited for our 5pm museum reservations for the Borghese Gallery.

Once we got into the Borghese gallery we had approximately two hours to wander and enjoy the amazing artwork including the Bernini sculpture of Apollo and Daphne that is absolutely breathtaking. We then met downstairs at the museum's cafe, where we hopped on a bus to our bittersweet last dinner on the trip.

Bernini's Daphne and Apollo statue
Dinner was fabulous. We were able to eat in the ruins of Pompey's Theater and enjoyed each others company for one more amazing and delicious night. After appetizers, pasta, meat, and some lively discussion, we said goodbye to the restaurant. Overall, the day was the perfect way to end our trip. The mix of free time and the beautiful and fascinating sights topped with the same amazing Italian food we've come to love was an amazing way to say goodbye to a country we are sure never to forget.

Dinner at Da Pancrazio in the basement, which was once part of Pompey's Theater
See you soon America!

-Abbie Henshaw

Classical Italy Day 11: Reflections

At the airport about to leave Rome

As all good things must come to an end, today marks the end of the Italy trip. From hiking Mount Vesuvius to climbing an infinite amount of steps, the general mood today is marked with pure exhaustion.

We started the day with an 8:30 hotel departure. The trip down the street was particularly rocky, as we hurtled our suitcases down cobblestone streets trying not to be a danger to ourselves and the people around us. But luckily after what was technically our second to last walk as a pack of American tourists, we were granted the sweet relief of one last bus ride together.

Once we reached the airport, it was time to reclaim our passports from our chaperones and, unfortunately, say goodbye to Meaghan. It was a grand farewell, filled with pictures, social media exchanging, and last exclamations of newly acquired slang words. Yet we got through it and once we parted ways, we headed through security and plopped into our seats for the free hour before our flight.

That time was filled with a variety of activities from the busy minds of sssas-ers. From AC making a list of viral videos to show Ms. Peckham to Alicia powering through the last 60 pages of Daphne, to me frantically buying last minute gifts for loved ones, you could say we used our time wisely. At 11:35 it was time to board the plane and leave our beloved Italia. After a 2 hour flight, we reached Germany and stayed for a hefty 3 hour layover.

Since bus rides, flights and layovers are a great for reflection, I decided to step into the minds of everyone on the trip by asking them three very important questions.

"What is one memory that you will never, ever forget from this trip?" 

Abbie- All the dinners. I won’t remember them individually, but as a whole the food was always amazing and it was just a great way to close off the day.

AC- Looking at the bones at Herculaneum. It was cool to see the position in which they died because they were all stuck there.

Afua- Evening walks for sure. The beautiful piazzas always make opting for the walk a great idea. When it comes to walking, 5 minutes during the day feels like an eternity, but somehow walking for almost 30 minutes total seemed like a piece of cake (especially when there was gelato involved). The pasta was delightful too.

Jonah-The amazing picture of the Vatican that I took.

Ms. Peckham- I was really impressed by the young women on this trip and how thoughtful they were about the role of women and sexual assault in classical mythology and history. They really made me think and change my perspective on the subject.

"Favorite Meal?"

Abbie- When we went to the cheese house. But the best bruschetta was from the pizza place in Naples.

Ac- The last night was very good, a classic spaghetti with some bacon in there

Afua- Gnocchi from day 2 held my heart. The Cheesecake from the third to last restaurant was heavenly.

Jonah-The lamb from last night.

Ms. Peckham- The meal we had in the mozzarella farm place and Praestrum, freshest mozzarella I’ve ever had. Fried artichoke— that was awesome

"Last but not least, favorite Italian Phrase? Mine was “Andiamo Ragazzi!”"
Abby - I said earlier that the three Italian phrases that I needed to know were “Chocolata Calda” “Bruschetta” and thank you— and scusi.

AC- “Italia!”

Jonah- I didn't really use any Italian on the trip and overall they understood me perfectly fine, but I did say Buonjourno a few times and Grazie.

Ms. Peckham- one of my favorites “in bocca al Lopo” which is what you say when you’re wishing someone good luck, and the response is “crepi.” It literally means “in the mouth of the wolf” and may the wolf drop dead. 

-- Afua Nyantakyi

Final gelato in Rome at Della Palma, which has 150 flavors


Last view of of the city and Vatican from Ponte Sisto

Monday, March 26, 2018

Normandy Exchange 2018: Au Renoir et a bientot

Early Saturday morning, we gathered in the parking lot near le Lycee Jeanne d’Arc to say goodbye to our hosts and board the bus for the 3 1/2 hour ride to Charles de Gaulle airport. I am happy to report that the trip home was wonderfully uneventful, although a few of us did consider making a break for it and heading back to Bayeux while we still had the chance!

I want to share with you a few more reflections that was unable to post earlier:
I have had so much fun in Bayeux so far. My family is so nice. They always ask how I’m doing and after it snowed they made sure I had proper shoes, a scarf, a hat. They’re so sweet. We also play games together just about every night. French board/ card games are so cool. I am so grateful that I got a family like them!
Seeing the American Cemetery was absolutely breathtaking. It was so nice to see the flags being taken down with Taps in the background. I loved all of the interesting information that I got from our tour guide and the museum. It was really moving to hear some of the stories of the people who are buried there.
(Jadyn Chandler)

I have noticed that people come from different places from Europe. Specifically Britain. I have met two people so far who have UK heritage and have a British accent. What I have also noticed is that they keep up with our news more than we keep up with theirs. They seem to know about the mass shootings and gun control, which we ourselves are struggling to get control of. They don’t have the same issue of mass shootings because they are not allowed to buy guns in France. 
(Jordan Walker)

Here are some highlights from my past few days in Normandy for the blog 
-a group of students got together and had pizza, after dinner the American correspondants taught their french counterparts various “classic” American dances such as the cha cha slide and the Cupid shuffle, it was a great bonding experience and a unique side of American culture for the exchange partners to see 
-Seeing the abbey of Mont St-Michel was amazing, the architecture and sheer ingenuity of building atop a rock were very impressive, getting to experience such a culturally iconic place with our correspondants was very enjoyable.
(Lilly Cady)

Being in a French English class and a French Spanish class was an eye-opening experience.  Seeing them learn another language—our language— in the same way we learn theirs was a great reminder of how alike we really are.
(Christian Corpening)

This trip has been a wonderful experience for me.  I have bonded with my host family and enjoy our dinner time conversations very much.  They ask me questions about America, and I have learned a lot about French culture.  C’est vachement cool.

As for me, I come out of this experience with feelings of friendship and respect for our partner school in Bayeux, and renewed love and admiration for our own students, who represented our community and our country beautifully. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every moment I spent in their company, and I am extremely proud to be associated with this wonderful group of Saints!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Classical Italy Day 9: The Fun Never Stops in the Vatican

Today was the sole non-travel day when we left Italy behind, traveling on foot to the smallest nation in the world: Vatican City! The day was long and grueling, but well worth the effort, as the sights we saw were utterly breathtaking.

The day began with an eight am wake-up call, the latest we’ve woken up yet, (Hochberg was truly generous, letting us sleep in!) We immediately got walking, heading toward St. Peter’s Basilica.

Throughout the day, Meaghan was the MVP; without her managing our tickets, reworking our plans, and ensuring everyone stayed together, we would’ve been lost, both literally and figuratively. Her patience and coolness made the day enjoyable for everyone. Once we got to St. Peter’s, she let us shop and roam the grounds while the chaperones waited in line for over an hour. We went to bookshops, bought rosaries, and drank some much-needed morning Fanta. Unfortunately, as we are right before Holy Week, and also in spring-break season, it was incredibly crowded. People were bustling everywhere, pushing and shoving, but as Meaghan said, “The fun never stops in the Vatican!”

Once inside the Basilica, we were given the option to either climb the hundreds of stairs to the top of the Dome, or stay on the ground and tour the chapel. Surprisingly, a majority of the group decided to take the climb. Thus, Ms. Peckham, the Hoch, and ten students, myself included, worked their way through the warped walls to one of the most beautiful views in the city. From a Birdseye view, we could overlook the entire Vatican, as well as several of the Roman attractions from previous days. Many pictures were taken, as the outlook was spectacular.

A view of St. Peter's Basilica from the top of the dome

Tired but happy at an amazing McDonald's near the Spanish Steps 

The famous Laocoon Group in the Vatican Museum

After a moment, we descended, stopping halfway down to catch our breaths. A pesky yellow jacket landed on a group member’s coat, but was swiftly dealt with by Ms. Peckham, without much event. Then, we met up with the other group on the ground and explored the chapel, taking pictures of the beautiful marble and artwork. By this point, everyone was exhausted and quite hungry.

Noticing this, our chaperones leapt into action, scheming up
for a two-part lunch/rest power plan. First, we stopped at a café near the entrance to the Vatican Museum. Here, some people ate lunch, either pizza or paninis, while some simply got gelato, or nothing at all. Next, we rushed over to the Museum, as not to miss our reservation, and upon entering, we immediately rushed to the cafeteria. There, the rest of our group got lunch, and we took a forty-five minute break to get off of our weary feet, take a nap, or otherwise care for ourselves. Afterwards, we went up to the Museum.

Pushing our way through crowds once more, we admired all the famous Vatican artworks in awe: we saw the Laocoon statue, the School of Athens, and the Tub of Nero, to name a few highlights. Additionally, there was a brief dispute regarding the function of a sarcophagus that looked suspiciously similar to a bath. Finally, we came to the final stop at the Vatican Museum: the legendary Sistine Chapel.
Before entering, Meaghan gave very specific instructions on where to meet after viewing the Chapel, when and who to look for, listen to and stay with. Later, we learned that this was due to an incident which happened on a previous Italy trip, when some students got separated from the group. The seriousness of the instructions was somewhat intimidating, and everyone was careful to follow them precisely.

The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous, of course, and we took time to observe all of Michelangelo’s work. The constant auditory reminders to be quiet, which were loud enough to have come from God Himself, allowed for a lovely silence, such that we could all enjoy a spiritual moment. After a good half-hour, we met up and exited the Museum, crossing over the Bridge of Angels. This Bridge has an interesting mythology regarding a plague in the Vatican, and had a great view of St. Peter’s with the setting sun. On the other side of the bridge, we walked to a piazza near our dinner restaurant. We were given about an hour to shop in the nearby stores. Purchases include books, sodas, and Pokémon cards.

Dinner consisted of fried vegetables, fresh mozzarella, and homemade pasta. It was delicious, and a nice way to finish out the day. We all returned to the hotel and collapsed, praying that our tired legs would swiftly recover.

In summary, today was a lot of walking between amazing viewpoints and art. We’re getting down to the last few days of the trip, but our itinerary is certainly not slowing down! Who knows what will happen next?

Certainly not me,

Jessica L. Lopez

Classical Italy Day 8: Roman Everything (Colosseum, Palatine, Roman Forum, and Capitoline)

Our day began with a quick wake up and a regular breakfast: coffee, tea, various breads and bakery treats, what we’ve been accustomed to in the mornings. After we were all up and ready we gathered in the main lobby to hear our briefing for the day. 

Our first item on our menu for the day was the Colosseum, where we had an appointment to make because of the fact that we had a relatively large group. We walked quickly to our first destination on our way to our main stop: the tram stop. Though it was my first time on one I quickly realized that it was basically a slower metro, so I wasn’t worried about it too much, aside from the fact that it was a little difficult to get on because it was so crowded inside the doorway.
The Roman Forum as viewed from the Palatine Hill

The Colosseum

After a quick ride and another quick walk we arrived at the Colosseum, which was also very crowded. We luckily had our passes ready and proceeded inside where we heard Mr. Hochberg read descriptions from ancient authors about daily entertainment in the amphitheater. We then split up and walked around for a while. After about an hour or so we all met up again. After this we walked out of the Colosseum towards a nearby grocery store. Our plan was to find food there and then take it up to the top of the Palatine hill where we would have a picnic.

We made the short walk to the hill and then passed through security to begin our small hike up the hill. It was a very sunny but cool day so our picnic was great. Afterwards we enjoyed translating with Mr. Hochberg a Latin passage from Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita about the founding of Rome on the Palatine hill. After relaxing for a bit we walked around and talked all about the history of the area. We took many pictures of the different sights as we walked and made our way over to the forum, which we first viewed from a very high up overlook. 

Everyone on the Palatine Hill

A picnic lunch on the Palatine Hill

We took a small trip down the trail to the forum joking about our experiences and about the forum as a whole. After we reached the bottom of the trail we were told we had about a full hour to walk around and take pictures of the area. I went and walked, talked, and took pictures with Jonah and Hudson. It was a lot of fun to hear stories about the areas we walked in, and to take pictures where so many people once walked.

After that we met up right next to a massive arch at the opposite of the forum. Where we talked for a bit and then made our way to our next stop, which was a small museum just a little ways away that held the prison that at one point had held St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as Vercingetorix at another time. 

After our quick visit we walked up the hill a bit more and to the Capitoline Museum where we enjoyed seeing sculptures and many busts of emperors, as well as mythological and religious figures. We competed in a fun scavenger hunt throughout the museum. It included pictures, translations, and videos. At the end we walked to Campo de Fiori and walked around until we were ready for dinner. 

We all had delicious meals and by the end of it we were ready to return to the hotel and rest after our long day

Overall it was a great day, and I’m looking forward to all the rest of them.

-Tim Bell  3/23/2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Thailand - Days 7 and 8

The Thailand trip is struggling with technology and internet connection, but here is a picture to update you while you wait for a blog update!