Posted 10/25/2020 11:00AM
Posted 10/25/2020 09:00AM
"Remember to be a tourist" and other lessons and reflections from Academic Travel
Posted 11/05/2015 03:00PM

Part 1: Student Reflections
Part 2: Faculty Reflections
Part 3:

Student Reflections

We asked Middle School and High Schools students to identify a highlight of their fall Academic Travel trip. Below are their responses.

My favorite part of my Academic Travel was learning that art is more than just decorations and pretty pictures and sculptures. Each design may be inspired through something, such as religion or family, but in the end the final product has its own story to tell. (Ariana R. ’16 • Rome)

Visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican (Tigran Vardanyan ’16 • Rome)

It's really hard to choose my favorite part of the trip as everything was amazing. However, I think my favorite part was when we all split up into our advisor groups on Tuesday evening and took a walk around the area of Palazzo Ducale near our hotel. We stopped in a gelateria for gelato, stopped in many souvenir shops and bakeries, and basically just had a great time as an advisory. (Alexia Dochnal ’22 • Mantova)

Academic Travel Trips - Fall 2015
  Bologna (Italian)  
  CERN (IB Physics II)  
  Florence (Modern History I & II, and Honors World Literature)  
  Geneva (IB Economics I)  
  Lausanne (8th grade trip)  
  Leysin (Varsity Girls Volleyball)  
  Mantova (6th grade trip)  
  Monaco and Nice (7th grade trip)  
  Munich (Music)  
  Rome (IB Art History, Art History, and Theory of Knowledge II)  
  St. Moritz (9th grade Swiss Adventure)  
  Treviso (11th grade)  
  Turin (Theater/Dance)  
  Venice (Drawing & Painting, Photography)  
  Verona (Varsity Soccer)  
  Zermatt (9th grade Swiss Adventure)  
  Zurich (6th grade trip, IB Chem II/IB Bio II)  

I have two favorite parts: one, when my roommate and I had dance parties but then had to quit because the boys were complaining, and two, when we had free time and Mr. Frazier gave us partners and my partner was Faye and we bought giant turtles that were stuffed animals of course. (Olivia Harting ’22 • Mantova)

Riding a bike with a whole group of people was a highlight. Even though sometimes we were riding uphill, and my ability wasn't enough for me to catch up to them, it's still an interesting thing to do. Also, listening to a speech from a person who is now working with the refugee settlement. Her experiences of working in war-torn countries are amazing. (Yu Ki Chan ’17 • Geneva)

I liked our trip overall, but I especially liked the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. (Yigit Eyuboglu ’17 • Geneva)

The Galileo Museum and all the great food (─░rfan Altunkaya ’18 • Florence)

The favorite part of the trip for me was the food and the art. (Yasemin Erguder ’18 • Florence)

My favorite part of the trip was when we went to the Parfumerie Fragonard. (Adele Virgilio ’21 • Nice and Monaco)

Swimming in the ocean (A highlight mentioned by Ella Abisi ’21, Penelope Baroni ’21, and Larion Atutov ’21 • Nice and Monaco)

My favorite part of the trip was making new friends and being more open to others. (Lea Spodnik ’22 • Zurich)

My favorite part was Technorama, where we could explore a ton of experiments. (A highlight mentioned by both Alexander Ovsyannikov ’22 and Tim Stepanov '22 • Zurich)

My favorite part of the trip was the hike through Zermatt’s mountains as we were able to become closer to nature and enjoy the crisp, fresh air. (Aurelia Dochnal ’19 • Zermatt)

Visiting the chocolate factory (Carola Camilleri ’20 • Lausanne)

The best part of the trip was that I got to explore more places that locals go to, such as fish markets and the back streets. (Bokyung Kim ’18 • Venice)

The food during the trip was really good. (Hongrui Han ’17 • Treviso)

Faculty Reflections

From Sabrina Putnam, leader of the 9th grade Swiss Adventure trip in Zermatt:

We had a great trip—half the 9th grade took to the Alpine hills for a beautiful hike among the yellowing Larch trees, the high flying tops of an adventure park, and the slippery smooth walls of the Gorner Gorge. I am certain that most of our kids would say that the Gorge, while terrifyingly challenging, was the highlight of our trip. I would agree, with one exception, and that was getting up on the final morning to watch the sun rise on the Matterhorn—a view that is not to be missed!

From David Jepson, leader of the Theory of Knowledge trip in Rome, who passed along this reflection from a group of students:

Art is a permanent way of representing history or events that occurred. Perspectives may change, and interpretations can differ from person to person, but the idea remains in the piece of art that cannot be changed. Many examples can be found in Rome since it has been a historical nucleus for more than 2000 years. The Sistine Chapel is an example of a collection of pieces of art that shows a series of events known worldwide. Art pieces are open books, and there is nothing more interesting than discovering them with your own eyes and seeing the history yourself.

From KC McKee, who traveled with 11th graders to Treviso:

One of the highlights of our trip to Treviso was our cooking class in the hills outside of the city. The group was broken into two teams and competed against each other in a Master Chef-style competition. Things got "heated" but both groups learned quite a bit about Italian cooking. The students then enjoyed devouring the fruits of their labor.

From Frank Long, who led the Photography trip to Venice:

The Venice Photography trip is a TASIS tradition dating from Horst Durrschmidt. Although we had some wet weather this year, the group had two opportunities to photograph the late light. When I learned photography, the magic was often in the darkroom. It is wonderful to see the students have a chance to practice long exposures on the tripod, and to experience the magic of twilight in San Marco square.

From Andra Yount, who co-led the Theatre & Dance trip to Turin:

We had the privilege of staying at a historic villa in Torino, where we held joint and separate rehearsals: the theatre students prepared for Love’s Labour’s Lost while the dancers participated in workshops in creative movement, ballet, and modern dance. Everyone took a lindy hop class in town, where we learned about the dance styles of the 1920s. We also saw two performance works: a beat-boxing, comedic mask show by a German theatre group called Klasse Tour and a modern interpretation of the Romantic ballet Giselle. Academic Travel week forced both students and teachers out of their comfort zones, but in the end everyone accomplished some major goals, whether it was learning their lines for the play or mastering a new dance move.

From Boys Varsity Soccer coach Kent Hercules, who traveled with his team to Verona:

During the soccer trip to Verona, we had a small group of 14 boys, some of whom came from the varsity team and others from the junior varsity. In a few days of work with our own coaches and some great ideas from our A.C. Milan trainer, Cosimo, we were able to galvanize the two squads into a single team. The boys prevailed in a thrilling game under the lights against a local club, with great support from members of the TASIS girls team, who were singing and dancing and cheering all evening in the stands.

From Alec Ogilvie, who led a trip to Zurich for IB Chemistry II and IB Biology II students:

We had a great trip, isolating and multiplying our own mitochondrial DNA and having fun with liquid nitrogen.


What I’ve learned over the course of 12 TASIS trips

High School Math Teacher Thomas Joyce, who has now been on seven Academic Travel trips, three Ski Weeks, and two Global Service trips to India, shares a list of lessons he has learned from his travels. 

  1. Food tastes better when there are not mobile phones out.
  2. As a school in Switzerland, a prepared chaperone should always have chocolate with them.
  3. Drink a lot of water. 
  4. Drink the coffee in Italy and France, the hot chocolate in Switzerland, and the tea in India. 
  5. Good food can make a trip.
  6. When you click with your other chaperones, you can handle any issue that comes your way.
  7. Remember to be a tourist.
  8. It is easier to find our students in a crowd when they are wearing their uniforms.
  9. Don’t let your camera get in the way of your memories. Many experiences need to be lived, not documented.
  10. Smile.
  11. “Open eyes, open ears, open hearts.” - Joe Madiath, founder of Gram Vikas 
  12. A TASIS student should be equally as comfortable in a tuxedo as in work clothes, in the company of ambassadors as paupers, at a Michelin-starred restaurant as around a communal bowl of food, squatting on the floor of a hut.

Venice: 10 things I learned on my first Academic Travel trip

Mark Chevalier joined the TASIS community in August, taking on the role of Associate Director of Communications. He was grateful to have the opportunity to join Martyn Dukes, Wendy Kessel, and 18 students on the Drawing & Painting trip in Venice in late October. Below are 10 lessons he learned on the trip.

  1. DO rest up before the trip.

    Being on the go in a new city from 8:00-23:00 most days produces a unique kind of fatigue, and it’s not the kind of challenge you’ll want to face with a half-empty tank.
  2. DO find a way to be of use.

    For most chaperones, this is an easy one. But for me it was a bit trickier, as this was the Drawing & Painting trip and my art skills peaked around age six. I was also with two other chaperones who more than had things covered. Mr. Dukes is an expert in his field, already knew all the students from his art classes, and had a firm grasp on the city and itinerary. Ms. Kessel speaks Italian quite well and has the poise and tenacity to sort out any tricky situations that arise when you’re traveling in a foreign city as a pack of 21. So when I was asked if I’d be willing to handle the money throughout the week, I was more than happy to do so. It’s not a difficult job, but it was nice to be able to relieve the other chaperones of at least one duty.

  3. DO select the right footwear.

    Knowing that we’d be walking a lot and that it was likely to rain a fair amount during our trip, I thought my trusty Benton Boat Shoes from Dexter would be a solid choice. The lightweight construction, cushiony memory foam insoles, and water-resistant exterior seemed to check all the boxes, but I failed to consider the dangers inherent in counting on an inexpensive pair of well-worn soles that weren’t particularly grippy to begin with. When it did rain for nearly all of Wednesday and Thursday, my slip-and-slide soles proved to be no match for a city full of wet cobblestone. One incident was nearly calamitous, which brings us to...

  4. DO NOT step too close to the canals.

    Just after arriving in Venice, students were given an hour or so to sketch and take long-exposure photographs alongside the Venetian Lagoon. I used this opportunity to take photos of them working. After taking the perfectly satisfactory photo of several student artists above, I thought it would be nice to get an angled shot and include a bit more of the city center. I gingerly made a play for the fourth step with my right foot and immediately fell in comic fashion, my right leg making straight for the sky while the rest of my body fought with all its power to keep me, a TASIS camera, and a tidy sum of cash out of the canal. I managed to do so, and after getting up and shaking off the assault on my pride, I assessed the damage and discovered that the camera was okay, my left wrist was sore but uninjured, and my pants were covered with seaweed but not torn. A searing pain near my left armpit suggested a pulled muscle of some sort, but I’ll take it. At least I didn’t end up in the drink.
  5. DO talk to the teachers on your trip—in this case Mr. Dukes for the Drawing & Painting trip and Frank Long and Jim Shields for the Photography trip, which was also in Venice—as much as possible. They possess a wealth of knowledge and are assigned to their given trips for a reason.

  6. DO NOT underestimate the talent of the TASIS student artists.

    You know how certain childhood memories stand out in your mind for no apparent reason? I distinctly remember drawing a photo of a car at school when I was in Kindergarten and bringing it home to show my mom. She said it was amazing and that I was quite an artist. A few years ago, I helped my parents move out of their house, and my mom surprised me by giving me several boxes of schoolwork from my early years. It was a lot of fun to look through all this stuff, and at some point I came across my car masterpiece. Thanks for the encouraging words, mom, but this drawing was dreadful, even for a six-year-old!

    Some people are blessed with artistic talent, and some aren’t. The 18 students on this trip certainly are, and it was amazing to see what they could sketch in sessions that typically lasted less than half an hour.

  7. DO time your trip around La Biennale di Venezia, a massive international contemporary art exhibition that comes to the city for six months every other year.

    If one as unenlightened as myself can appreciate all of the five hours we spent at La Biennale over two days, I can only imagine what the experience was like for our aspiring artists. It was interesting for me to overhear Mr. Dukes telling his International Baccalaureate students to pay special attention to the installation art pieces, many of which were quite elaborate, and to be prepared to write about how they may have been installed. This was an element of the exhibition that I would have otherwise paid little attention to but found quite fascinating upon further reflection.
  8. DO NOT miss out on visiting the island Burano. The bright colors and calm streets were a nice change of pace after a few days in Venice, and where else will you see a leaning church tower?

  9. DO NOT panic and rush your order when you get a chance to eat at a fine Italian restaurant. You’ll be disappointed if you end up, as I did, with a pizza topped with baloney, lemon slices, and pistachio nuts.

  10. DO take a moment to appreciate where you are and what you're doing.

    How many other schools would attempt to pull this off? Kudos to High School Academic Travel Director Natalie Philpot, Middle School Dean of Students MJ Breton, and all others responsible for deftly handling the logistical nightmare of sending more than 500 students on 23 separate trips to 17 different locations around Europe.

    It also dawned on me that the trip to Venice starts a run of at least five consecutive months that will feature a significant international travel experience for me. Maybe it’s easy to take this lifestyle for granted after you’ve lived it for a while, but I hope I don’t any time soon.   

Image Galleries

For more photos, visit the TASIS SmugMug galleries for Fall Academic Travel and 9th Grade Swiss Adventure.



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