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Students clear language barrier

Students clear language barrier

Posted: Monday, June 21, 2010 9:40 pm
By: Glenda Caudle, Special Features Editor

By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
The first major language hurdle has been cleared.
As the group of 11 students and chaperones from Obion County enjoying a free 12-day Rotary-club sponsored trip to Europe’s major cities leaves Paris behind and explores the beauty of Switzerland, the travelers can boast they managed to make themselves understood and they even comprehended something of what was said back to them — thanks to their high school French.
“Alton (Alexander) posted some words in French — I have no clue what they were,” his mother, Laurie Alexander of Hornbeak reported to The Messenger over the weekend. Mrs. Alexander added her son was supposed to have his turn at the group phone, provided for the educational vacation by Wood Communications Cellpage of Fulton, an authorized Verizon retailer. Instead, however, he gained access to the Internet and posted a Facebook message that his mom and dad — Laurie and Travis Alexander — received Saturday.
Alexander was the only student with French classes to his high school credit, but the group’s chaperones, Joanna and Clark Wisener of Rives, also had some background in the Romance language.
“Alton’s French and what I remember from high school helped a lot,” Mrs. Wisener, who teaches English at Union City High School, reported Saturday. “Last night (Friday) we ordered Subway in France. So, thanks, Sherri Bing (her high school French teacher at OCCHS.)
Mrs. Wisener said the French cuisine was not making a grand impression on the students, but everything else was.
“They are noticing so much that is different here. We did a bit of shopping today (Saturday) and will have a long bus ride tomorrow,” she said in the week-end report. The group departed for Lucerne, Switzerland, early Sunday morning.
On Friday, Regina Mullins of Union City checked in with The Messenger to report that her daughter, Union City High School student Kassadie Mullins, had taken her turn at reporting as the group reached Paris from London. “She said the ferry ride across the English Channel was nice, but it was cold. The bus ride into Paris was long and the traffic was horrible, so it took forever for them to get to their hotel. They got something to eat and went back to the hotel Friday night and were looking forward to Saturday,” Ms. Mullins said in her phone call to The Messenger.
“She also said the hotel rooms are really small.”
Alexander, an OCCHS student, and Miss Mullins and their fellow travelers — Jacob Cleaver from South Fulton High School and additional UCHS students Cameryn Fishel, Megan Hickman, Trey Maddox, Chase Bowling, Jasmine Davis and Lakevius Turner — make up the Class of 2011 students selected to enjoy the all-expense-paid trip abroad provided as a major learning experience for the second year by Union City Rotary Club.
Their trip began when they boarded a bus provided by Union City School System last Tuesday at 11 a.m. and headed for the Memphis airport, where they boarded a late afternoon flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul. From there, they winged their way in a giant plane eastward, landing in London — six time zones away from home — early Wednesday.
Their excited reports on the trip were featured in Thursday and Friday editions of The Messenger, which has been following the story since the students’ selections were announced by the Union City Rotary Club trip committee in November.
The selection process involved interviews with the selection committee and the students committed themselves to research projects on the trip; hours of community service; good attendance and behavior records at their schools; and attendance at multiple pre-trip study sessions to learn about the history, culture, geography, language and money of the four countries on their exciting itinerary. The sessions also covered travel safety, packing tips and the art and architecture they will be encountering.
At the final session — a family picnic the Saturday before the group left — they received the second of their distinctive Union City Rotary Club gold shirts (to be worn on the flight over and the flight back); their backpacks featuring the Rotary Club emblem; their passport/document/currency security holders; multi-colored pompons and luggage tags from Cosmos Travel, which is shepherding the students and chaperones through Europe, thanks to Travel One in Union City; their group phone; and last minute travel instructions from Linda Aaron of Travel One.
Their parents took the opportunity to establish a calling tree to spread the word daily on the group’s exploits. Students were not permitted to take their own phones or computers on the trip because of concerns about the expense of their use, the possibility of loss of property and the desire to have them leave behind the temptation to be “plugged in” to present-day technology as they explore centuries of culture and history in London, Paris, Lucerne, Rome and several other stops in Italy.
They will return home late Sunday afternoon and will be reporting on their adventures in person to family, friends, classmates, the Rotary Club and other interested groups.
Meanwhile, dramatic word continues to filter through the families and on to The Messenger, for stories to keep all of Obion County up to date on their trip of a lifetime.
Mrs. Wisener’s report on Paris included the following: “We had a great day in Paris (Saturday). We all went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the kids thought today was a lot of fun.”
Alexander’s communication stressed that even though it was 50 degrees and “he was freezing,” he loved Paris, according to his parents.
When the big Cosmos tour bus arrived in Lucerne — a favorite of the 2009 tour group for its beauty –  Cameryn Fishel contacted her parents (Eric and Camille Fishel of Union City) and said they had left Paris at 8 Sunday morning and arrived in Lucerne at 5 p.m. after a 10-hour bus ride.
“She said it is a beautiful place — the prettiest place, to date,” Mrs. Fishel said. “The temperature was 41 degrees and several of them had jumped in the lake there, but only for a few minutes. Tomorrow (Monday), they plan to take a cable car excursion up the mountain and then take a lake cruise. They have met some of the other people on the tour (Cosmos tours typically draw customers from not only the United States but Canada, Australia and New Zealand) but haven’t had a chance to get to know them well yet. Everyone is safe and having a great time.”
Several other students gained access to a hotel Internet café and sent messages along, as well, Sunday night.
• Jasmine Davis — “Everything has been great in Switzerland. Coming into it was so-o-o-o-o-o beautiful. Everybody is sticking together and being aware of pickpocketers!” (Students had been warned to be especially careful of their belongings, since tourists are prime targets for criminals anywhere in the world.)
• Lakevius Turner — “Switzerland is so beautiful. Our room has an awesome view of the mountains. We jumped in Lake Lucerne in 8 degrees Celsius. WOW! We were at the Eiffel Tower yesterday. It was so high up. No one had any idea Paris was so big.”
• Kassadie Mullins — “It has been so much fun. I love Switzerland; it is so pretty. Paris was fun. I loved seeing the Eiffel Tower.”
• Chase Bowling — “The Eiffel Tower was absolutely amazing! It was so tall. We could see all of Paris from the top.  When we arrived at Lake Lucerne, our tour group decided to go jump in the lake for a swim. It was so cold! The experience was well worth it, though. I can’t wait to see everybody and tell them all our stories.”
Mrs. Wisener wrapped up the report Sunday night: “We have made it safely to Switzerland. The bus ride was not as bad as we thought it would be. All of the kids except Jasmine and Kassadie got in the freezing cold water of Lake Lucerne. I think they are crazy and several members of our tour group watched them and thought so, too. I guess we make quite an impression. We loved Paris and just had a great day yesterday hanging out together. Tomorrow we go to Lucerne for the lake cruise and the tour of the town and we decided to go up Mount Titlis, too. All of them are getting along well and bonding very well.”
On Tuesday, the group will leave Lucerne and head for beautiful Lugano, Switzerland, and a lakeside walking tour before crossing the border into Italy.
Once there, they will make stops in Verona, Venice, Florence and Pisa, arriving in Rome, the Eternal City, Friday.
The trip will wind down when they head home Sunday, fly westward and land in Memphis in the late afternoon.
Published in The Messenger 6.21.10

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