The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

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Bon Voyage! Poly Students Embark on Curricular Travel


This spring break, Poly Prep gave students in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade the opportunity  to participate in a curricular travel trip to either Mexico or Italy. Priority was given to students currently studying Spanish for the Mexico trip and Italian, Latin, or Art History for the Italy trip to allow students to put their studies to the test and practice the language in real time. The Mexico trip took place during the first week of spring break from March 14 – 21. Similarly, the trip to Italy took place from March 14 – 23. Each trip had two teachers who chaperoned and guided the students through the new culture. Spanish Teachers Maité Iracheta and Amy Richards led the trip to Mexico, and World Languages Department Chair Elisabeth Mansfield and English Teacher Carmelo Larose led the Italy trip. 

The first stop on the Mexico trip was Mexico City, where students studied the historical aspects of the city and the Aztec Empire. Students spent four days exploring the beautiful city and numerous landmarks, such as the Coyoacán market and Frida Kalo’s house, Casa Azul. “I really loved walking around the market in a little town outside of Mexico City,” said Lulu McDonald ’24, a student on the trip to Mexico. In Mexico City, the group also went to see Palacio de Bellas Artes, which is an art museum that some students actually studied in their classes. After experiencing Mexico City, the group began their drive to the second and final destination, Oaxaca City, which is further south of Mexico City. In Oaxaca, the students attended workshops where they participated in activities that ranged from learning how to cook traditional dishes to making alebrijes (wooden structures that are painted with bright colors and represent different animals). 

The historical background of Mexico also played a huge role in this trip. In Oaxaca, students had the opportunity to visit historical ruins, such as the pyramids in Teotihuacán. “We did a lot of activities, and it is very hard to say which one was my favorite because each had its very own meaning, but I want to mention wherever there was an opportunity for us as a group or as a little traveling family, to have conversations and sing for example [was really special],” said Iracheta.  

McDonald is currently in Jose Oliveras’ Advanced Topics in Spanish Literature class. “Our teachers had us speak to them in Spanish the whole time, and obviously…with our tour guides and people who were there, we spoke Spanish with them, so it was really good to practice my Spanish and get comfortable with speaking a lot. It was also really cool to connect a lot of the things we were seeing with things we already learned in class,” said McDonald. 

This immersive trip helped the students form a deeper connection with the Spanish language while learning how to properly utilize their studies in the real world. Students also came away from the trip with a different outlook on the world, being able to experience a new culture for all that it has to offer. “I definitely came away from [the trip] realizing that you can only go so far to learn a language in an academic setting; at some point, you have to actually go into the world and speak the language. You’re gonna make a lot of mistakes, but when you’re learning in real time, that’s when it really starts to stick,” said McDonald. 

The curricular travel trip to Italy also offered many opportunities and experiences to students who participated. The trip lasted nine days, beginning with two days in the city of Rome. In Rome, students had the opportunity to see the pieces of architecture that they had been studying in their Latin or Art History classes, which was the highlight of the trip for many students. After those two days, the group made their way to Sorrento where they took an hour-long ferry ride to Capri. In Capri, the students had the opportunity to experience its crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches. After Capri, the group then traveled to Palermo where they went to Naples. In Napels they saw Herculaneum, which is a nearby smaller town. They also visited the Archeological Museum in Naples, where they saw gorgeous artworks, such as mosaics and paintings. 

The group then took an overnight boat from Naples to Agrigento Sicily. Mansfield said this was one of the most memorable experiences for her, given she got to watch her Italian students use the language in context. “The seniors who went on that trip, they met these kids on the boat and they were speaking Italian. It was organic and it was natural and it wasn’t forced … and that was awesome for me because…this was a completely unplanned situation … and this is what language is all about because they wanted to use their Italian. They were learning things and making new friends,” said Mansfield. After Agrigento the group traveled to Taormina where they spent 2 nights there. Lastly the group explored the Aeolian Islands before returning to Rome for a night to catch their flight home. 

Sophomore Ava Barbiere had the opportunity to travel to Italy. “It’s really hard to pick, but my favorite part was going to the Aeolian islands, specifically Vulcano. We went on a tour around the island, which was pretty much empty since it wasn’t tourist season yet. We went on a drive up the volcano, stopping every once in a while to look over the island. We saw a bunch of cows and goats too, which was really just adorable. Afterwards, we went to a beach for a while,” said Barbiere. The group of students was very much split with some seniors learning Italian and some students studying Latin and/or Art History. Barbiere is currently studying Latin and had the opportunity to hear Italian for the first time on the trip. “I tried to learn a little [Italian] before I went, but I [also] learned a bit from just being in Italy and hearing people speak Italian,” added Barbiere. This experience gave Ava and many other Poly students a new outlook on life, being able to actually live the things they were studying in their classes. 

These trips were not only memorable experiences for the students, but also the teachers who saw them learn outside of the classroom and take their studies into the real world. Mansfield currently teaches the senior Italian class and reflected on her students’ improvement: “Four of them came and their Italian got so much better…it was just exciting.”

Iracheta recalled an experience that she had with a tour guide in Teotihuacán. “Sometimes he would start drifting to English, and my students would be like ‘no, ask him to go back to Spanish’…so I had to ask him twice… that was amazing to see that they were craving and they would get into conversations with people, so they were engaged and that was amazing,” said Iracheta. 

“Studying something is nothing like living it…but living it, being able to take what you learned and take it somewhere where you can actually make it super meaningful, is just a game changer,” Mansfield said. 

Iracheta also added that, “in all the spectrum of humanity, all these possibilities are…here in our planet, so imagine just having the opportunity to go and see what it is, to put [on] the shoes of someone else and…live in a different culture, and breathe in it and then exhale in it, and that not only gives the student a new vision of life…but also an understanding of the self,” said Iracheta. 

These opportunities also brought new friendships. “There’s something weird about it…it’s not just about being immersed in the culture and the language…it’s the comradery, it’s the making new friendships…you share something very special…you just learn so much and it’s just so exciting and so fun,” Mansfield said. 


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