World-traveling students take in sights of Switzerland; Italy next
Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 9:30 pm
By: Glenda Caudle, Special Features Editor
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Only a few fathers can claim to have received a Swiss Army knife for Father’s Day. A knife engraved with their name. In Switzerland.
But George Hickman of Union City will have a belated such gift as soon as his daughter, Megan, returns from the free four-nation trip abroad she is enjoying with eight other members of the Class of 2011 from Union City, South Fulton and Obion County Central high schools.
The students — Jacob Cleaver from South Fulton High School and additional UCHS students Cameryn Fishel, Trey Maddox, Kassadie Mullins, Chase Bowling, Jasmine Davis and Lakevius Turner, plus Obion County Central High School student Alton Alexander — and their chaperones — UCHS English teacher Joanna Wisener and her husband, Clark — are in the middle of the 12-day adventure which began a week ago today and will wrap up Sunday, when the students return home by air from Rome to Minneapolis-St. Paul, then to Memphis and finally, courtesy of a big yellow school bus provided by Union City School System, to their eager families in Obion County.
Miss Hickman and the other rising seniors have taken turns contacting their families by phone each day of the trip and excited parents have passed on the messages (relayed over the communication device provided specially for the trip by Wood Communications Cellpage of Fulton, an authorized Verizon retailer) to The Messenger so the area readership can keep up with the adventure of a lifetime. And, occasionally, there have been reports from several members of the traveling group via the Internet, as they locate Internet cafés in Europe.
On Monday afternoon, Miss Hickman’s mother, Betty, got the job of calling The Messenger to pass on the news from Switzerland.
With London and Paris under their travel belts, the group had almost forgotten the sweltering temperatures of West Tennessee as they enjoyed the brisk mountain air of what some of the students had already described on their arrival as “the prettiest place in the world.”
Miss Hickman had high praise for the area’s natural resources, as well, telling her mom, “The water is good. The water is good. The water is so good.”
That would be a glacier-generated beverage for drinking that has a different “flavor” than the well water and specially treated clear liquid more familiar at home in rural Tennessee.
The students not only lapped up the water, they leaped in to it — literally — with Miss Hickman leading the way. She was, she told her family, the first in and the last out of the frigid waters of Lake Lucerne. Seven of the students decided their trip would not be complete without a dip into the lake, even though the temperature was a very chilly 4 degrees Celsius.
Hot showers followed soon afterwards.
Switzerland has also captured Miss Hickman’s heart because it was there she actually got to pet a Bernese Mountain Dog. An animal lover with a fondness for trivia about non-human beings, the student had said more than once to the Rotary Club trip selection committee who interviewed the students and narrowed the field to the lucky nine finalists last October, and to her fellow travelers, that she hoped to come across one of the large dogs so valuable to Alpine herders and dairymen when the group reached Switzerland.
“She just approached the dog’s owner and asked to pet him,” Mrs. Hickman reported. “She wants to be a zoologist and work with exotic animals. She’s always been a huge animal lover and knows all about dogs — where the different breeds come from and how the breeds were established.”
The black, white and rust-colored Bernese Mountain Dog can grow large enough to pull carts on Swiss farms, although there was no official report on whether Miss Hickman’s new friend was hitched up at the time she made his acquaintance.
Nevertheless, it was one more special memory to be recorded in the special travel journals the students received as gifts from the local Rotary Club early on in their travel preparation. Later, as the students prepared to leave Obion County, they got special Rotary-emblazoned gold shirts to wear on their take off and return trips; identical back packs with the Rotary Club emblem; and special security pouches for carrying and protecting their Rotary-provided passports, their individual credit cards issued by First State Bank to give them access to the Rotary-generated funds needed to pay for their meals and in-town travel and some “extra” events beyond those covered by the Cosmos Travel trip, plus the loose coins that will no doubt include samples of the English pound, the Swiss franc and European Union currency.
Linda Aaron of Travel One in Union City also handed over their pre-paid airline tickets and proof that their trip with Cosmos travel was completely covered by the Rotary Club a couple of days before the students left. For the second year in a row, the club has sponsored the all-expense-paid trip for students from this county. The club’s stipulations include an agreement by the students to study and prepare themselves for the trip, both through their own research and through attendance at classes on Saturdays and after school. These were provided by University of Tennessee at Martin professor Dr. Stan Sieber and his wife, Sarah, who are seasoned travelers, and by UCHS art teacher Hilary Webb, who provided insight into the art and architecture the students would be seeing. Further, the students were asked to agree to keep travel journals and to take part in presentations about their trip once they return home. Finally, the club’s guidelines stipulated the students taking part must have a good record of school attendance and compliance with rules and regulations and must be unable to afford to undertake the trip on their own.
“Megan said the kids had a picnic in a park in Paris and enjoyed seeing all the Parisian families there with their children. She said their hotel rooms have been small, with tiny toilets sometimes, but the one they have in Lucerne is cozy and she loves the hotel itself. She had had a Swiss omelet for lunch today and they were getting ready to find a place for supper when she called. She said she’s also bought lots of Swiss chocolate, besides the knife, and she’s nibbled some of it herself,” Mrs. Hickman reported to The Messenger.
With St. Paul’s and other wonders of London behind them, as well as the Eiffel Tower and the sites of Paris, the group will move on to Lugano, Switzerland, today, where their plans include a lake-side walking tour.
Crossing the border into Italy, they’ll take in the beauty and history of Verona, Venice, Florence and Pisa before winding up their adventure in Rome Friday.
Then, bright and early on Sunday, it will be time to board a flight home and review their exciting story over and over for those who have been getting it second hand.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.22.10