BESSEMER – Some students head south during their spring breaks to get away from the cold. Others use the time off to recuperate and relax.
But 20 students who have taken a German language class at Bessemer's A.D. Johnston High-Middle School took a trip to learn firsthand about European culture.
"In history class, right now, they're studying the Cold War," said teacher Tracy Rowe. "Here we are in the middle of Berlin; you talk about being in the Cold War, we're right there."
Rowe, who teaches math and German at the school, has taken her language students to Europe three times before.
For her fourth trip, she and seven other adult chaperones took the students to Berlin on April 4. Then they spent some time in Dresden, Germany. After that, they went to Prague and Krakow, Poland, before stopping in Budapest, Hungary and heading back to the states on April 14.
The trip exposed students to sights like the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, and an evening cruise along the Danube River in Budapest. They also went to Holocaust memorials and stopped at the concentration camp Auschwitz.
"It really brought it into perspective," said senior Brenna Bogaczyk. "You read about it in history books, but you're there and you see the conditions that these people were in, and it pulls on your heart-strings. It's something I will never forget."
Foreign languages are only offered for two years, and are taken mostly by freshmen and sophomore students, Rowe said. But the majority of students on the trip were juniors and seniors, who began planning for the trip two years ago.
Sophomore Destinee Rosemurgy, who is finishing her second year of German, went on the trip.
"It really opened my views on the world," she said. "Just realizing there's so much out there than our small town here in Bessemer, Michigan. I think everyone should be able to see the world and experience that – learning and seeing things that you would only see in books and pictures."
The trip was mostly funded by parents or the students themselves, but they had a little help through a fundraiser selling Seroogy candy bars.
"Some students made $125," Rowe said. "I had one that made $900 selling candy bars, so it was whatever they wanted, which was beneficial."
Rowe organized the trip through a private educational travel agency, which allowed for some discounted rates and handled all of the reservations. The agency also provided a tour director who met the group at the airport in Berlin and stayed with them until they finished their trip in Budapest.
The trip provided students with cultural interactions, not only with European cultures, but with the various cultures within the U.S.
The Bessemer students were paired up with another group of 12 students and four adults from Miami. The two groups visited a lot of the same places.
"It's really actually nice for us," Rowe said. "You get to know kids from another part of the country. We're so secluded up here. I think it's really good to open the eyes of the students here to the diversity throughout the country."