Travelers report on European trip
Posted: Friday, June 25, 2010 9:04 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
“Florence architecture is incredible,” Union City High School rising senior Trey Maddox reported to his family when he made contact by phone around 2:30 Thursday afternoon.
It was Maddox’s opportunity to report first-hand on the free European trip, sponsored by Union City Rotary Club, that he and eight classmates are enjoying. A call is made back to Obion County each day as the group, chaperoned by UCHS English teacher Joanna Wisener and her husband, Clark, winds up their day on the European road. The calls are made possible through Wood Communications Cellpage of Fulton, an authorized Verizon retailer. Students agreed to leave their own communication devices at home to prevent the temptation to send messages to friends rather than exploring their new surroundings, to prevent possible loss or theft of their property and to reduce communication expenses the students’ families would have been responsible for.
As contact is made with one of the local families each afternoon — by the donated phone or from a European Internet café — the “parents in the know” set in motion the calling tree that was established before the travel group left Union City June 15. It will be in operation until they vacate Rome Sunday morning to return home through Minneapolis-St. Paul and then on to Memphis. When they collect their luggage there, they will board the UCHS bus that transported them to the airport to begin their journey and return home to share their memories in person Sunday night.
“They took a tour of a leather shop in Florence where they made purses, jewelry and other leather items,” said Trey’s mom, Shirley Carter of Union City, as she reported to The Messenger. The student traveler is also the son of Eric Maddox of Union City. “The people at the leather shop indicated most of their money comes from tourism. They had lunch and walked the streets of Florence admiring all the architecture. Trey said Florence has the most (amazing) architecture of all the places they’ve been. They saw sculptures of Da Vinci, Galileo, Hercules and other famous people and they visited a cathedral, although he didn’t remember the name. They also ate more gelato (the ice cream-like Italian dessert that has won over the taste buds of the students). They ended the day with dinner at their hotel. He said Thursday was a holiday for Florence in honor of its patron saint — The Feast of St. John.”
Maddox is sharing space on a Cosmos Tour bus with fellow members of the UCHS Class of 2011 — Lakevius Turner, Jasmine Davis, Kassadie Mullins, Cameryn Fishel, Megan Hickman and Chase Bowling — and cross-county friends Alton Alexander of Hornbeak from Obion County Central High School and Jacob Cleaver of South Fulton from South Fulton High School. The tour was arranged through Linda Aaron at Travel One in Union City and all travel expenses are covered by Union City Rotary Club.
In addition to the fees paid to ensure the group of 11 could take part in the four-nation adventure, the Rotary Club also helped students apply for passports and paid those $100-plus fees; provided two distinctive gold Rotary-emblazoned shirts to wear on the trip to Europe and back again, so that the students can easily identify each other in crowded airport situations; gave each student a travel journal for recording the once-in-a-lifetime experience; helped them secure debit cards — provided free of charge by First State Bank — to access the necessary foreign currency during their travels; placed “extra” money in those travel accounts to cover meals not provided by the tour company, bonus opportunities to explore the places they want to visit beyond the tour-established selections, tips for the tour director and bus driver and any transportation necessary within the cities they visit; handed out distinctive Rotary-emblazoned backpacks for their carry-on luggage; and dispensed security carriers for their passports, travel documents and debit cards and currency.
The students are the second group of European travelers to enjoy the unprecedented opportunity to explore some of that continent’s most famous cities without expense to themselves. The local Rotary Club initiated the program last year, sending eight UCHS rising seniors and UCHS assistant principal Jacob Cross and his wife, Emily, off on a seven-nation adventure.
That group suggested an itinerary with fewer nations and more time in major cities might be worth looking in to; so as the Rotary trip committee began to make plans at the start of the 2009-10 school year, they focused on a Cosmos Tour experience billed as “From St. Paul’s to St. Peter’s.” This year’s trip began in London and included a visit to the awe-inspiring St. Paul’s Cathedral; moved on to Paris with never-to-be-forgotten sites such as the Eiffel Tower; wound through the heart-stoppingly beautiful countryside of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland; and is finishing up with stops in several Italian cities before taking on St. Peter’s in Rome. The group will arrive there today and depart Sunday morning.
Students who were selected for the trip underwent an intense selection and preparation process that began in October. At that point, the Rotary Club trip committee held two orientation sessions for interested members of the Class of 2011 from the three high schools in Obion County. Parents had to accompany students to one of the sessions to learn more about the opportunity. Almost 30 students then submitted applications and all were interviewed by the selection committee. The students were notified of their selection a few days later and immediately received an assignment to begin preparing research papers on the spots that would be included on the tour.
With some background under their belts, they went on to take part in several Saturday and after school sessions with Dr. Stan Sieber from the University of Tennessee at Martin and his wife, Sarah. The couple are veteran travelers abroad and frequently host college student tours. Their sessions focused on video tours of the cities on the travel schedule and information about currency, language, customs, history, good travel manners, safety and even packing tips. UCHS art teacher Hilary Webb also conducted a session on art and architecture the group would encounter.
Once the travelers return, they will be expected to present a program to the Rotary Club which has made the adventure possible and to share their experiences with their fellow students and with any other groups who would like to know more about the program.
Members of the Rotary Club trip committee, which is chaired by Rotarians Dr. Leland Davis and Clay Woods, say they are anxious to hear the latest trip report and hope a similar opportunity can be offered next year.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.25.10