Hurley students travel to Europe
HURLEY - For nearly a week in June, 36 students from the Hurley K-12 School traveled with eight adults to Spain, the Netherlands and France to experience European culture first-hand.
Natalie Patritto, trip organizer and Spanish teacher at Hurley, has taken students overseas since 1992. Her goal is to take students every two years, and has traveled to many different parts of Europe.
"My first trip with students was in 1992, and we went every two years, except for a four-year gap during 9-11," Patritto said. "We missed a trip in 2002 because everyone was still scared of flying."
The group left on June 17, traveling 20 hours from the Hurley K-12 School parking lot to Amsterdam. While in the Netherlands, the students had a six-hour layover, and Patritto took the students to the Anne Frank House. The house is where Frank and her family hid for 2 1/2 years from Nazis during World War II.
"They were all really affected by it," Patritto said of the students. "They all read ('Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl') and it affected them. The visit was supposed to be a surprise, but I couldn't help but tell them."
While taking the tour of the Frank house, Patritto said it was crowded but "you could hear a pin drop.
"It's a real solemn place, and it brought it home for everybody," she said. "I think that was a highlight for a lot of kids."
After leaving Amsterdam, the students traveled to Barcelona, completing the 31-hour journey to their destination.
The next day, students visited the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, which includes architecture from the 13th and 14th centuries. Students also visited Plaza Cataluña, the Barcelona Cathedral and the Picasso Museum.
The following day was "el día de Antonia Gaudí," or the day of Antonia Gaudí, Barcelona's most revered architect. Students were able to view Gaudí's work at Parc Güell, a whimsical, nature-driven park.
Students also visited Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Gaudí. The design of the cathedral began in the 1880s, and is expected to be completed in 2024.
The cathedral was created as a tribute to God, with its highest spire, dedicated to Jesus, expected to be the tallest in the world and closest to Heaven. The three exteriors of the cathedral represent the nativity, the passion and the resurrection.
According to Patritto, Gaudí wanted patrons to feel as though they were in a forest while in the cathedral, and created the columns to look like tree trunks. The stained glass windows allow light at all times of day and create the "most beautiful light show imaginable," Patritto said.
While in Barcelona, students were surprised with a trip to Perpignan, France, and visited the Palace of Mallorcan Kings.
"Some of the students, who were my (teachers' assistants), guessed about the trip," Patritto said. "On the itinerary, I told them it was a surprise and to bring your passport. What I forgot is that you don't need your passport in Europe, once you're there, you're part of the European Union. I think that tipped them off and they guessed."
Students shopped, swam in the ocean and even danced in a French music festival while their train was delayed.
"They were excited," Patritto said. "So many said, 'I want to learn French now.' So this year, during eighth period at the end of the day, we will have a study hall time for kids. Each quarter I will have a group of kids in the library, and over the course of the year, I want to teach them French, Finnish, German and Italian. The students don't have to participate if they don't want to, but I thought I could teach them the basics if they wanted to learn."
After the visit to France, students traveled to Montserrat, Spain, and rode cable cars to the top of a mountain to see a Benedictine monastery. The monastery was built to house the Moreneta, or Black Madonna. Students also walked the mountain trail that has markers depicting the Stations of the Cross and ends at the Santa Cova, or holy cave, where the Moreneta was found by shepherd boys during the 12th century.
Other stops included the site of the 1992 Olympics and Palacio Nacional de Cataluña, which was a summer home for Spain's royal family centuries ago.
In addition to all the sightseeing, students dined on traditional meals, including tapas and paella in Barcelona.
According to Patritto, the goal of trips like this is to plant seeds of cultural understanding and a love of travel.
"Because of these trips, we have had so many kids travel overseas to study abroad, which is pretty darn cool," Patritto said.
Patritto planned the trip herself. Despite the challenge of wrangling 44 people, she said the group was "awesome.
"Usually, we have a tour guide, and I never expected this size of a group, but they were so well behaved," Patritto said. "If I said we were going to have a meeting at 7 in the lobby, they were there at 6:45. They were great, and they kept thanking us for giving them the opportunity to take this trip.
"I felt so good about it. It was awesome. ... Everything we did was their favorite. Each time we went somewhere new, it became a new favorite. We went to a lot of places in a short amount of time, because I didn't want them to miss anything. Everything went great. We had a lot of fun."