AP European History students learn hands-on


As spring break was on the verge of arriving and numerous students were buzzing about their plans of visiting Florida, an anxious group of 35 students carried only their suitcases and passports, ready to embark on a 10 day European excursion they would never forget.

The AP European History students were relieved from their afternoon classes as they departed for O’Hare on March 19, where they would be led to their seats for the next eight hours.

“When we woke up, it was morning in Paris,” said senior Justin Smith. “[It] was very easy adjusting [to the seven hour jet lag].”

Upon their arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the tourists were acquainted with their tour guide for the next 10 days, Thomas Randall. Randall has been traveling with North for the past four trips, and both teachers and students have had pleasant experiences with the guide.

“Honestly, Thomas is the best tour guide we have ever had. He has a way of connecting with the kids that other tour guides that we’ve had haven’t been able to do,” said trip advisor and AP European History teacher Todd Grunloh. “He is a tireless worker at making kids feel comfortable in Europe and [is] always giving advice or finding interesting things to do.”

Despite the expected Parisian forecast of rainy and dreary, students were able to find the city’s wonders exciting and lively. With metro passes for the next three days, many ascended the steep stairs of Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and various churches overlooking the area.

“The most memorable part of this trip [was] climbing all the stairs in the monuments with my friends and then coming to the top only to see the most beautiful views anyone will ever see in their life,” said sophomore Lauren Olsen.

Travelers had the learning experience to explore all cities within a small group, where some of the best memories would be made as the students discovered the history lurking behind the country’s borders.

“We went to some museums and spent a lot of time enjoying scenery,” said junior Aria Vettraino. “I also really enjoyed going to the Lanvin exhibit in Paris and the Picasso Museum.”

Following the three day Parisian excursion, a coach bus would drive the travelers south to a region known as Provence, which shares a border with the Mediterranean Sea and Italy. Surprised and fascinated by the landscape, the villages and towns in Provence attracted many.

Savoring their last stay on the trip, students spent two days in Barcelona, where many walked along the Mediterranean Sea and ate cultural food such as tapas.

“I tried Spanish paella (a creamy rice dish) for the first time while we were in Barcelona,” Smith said. “I really enjoyed it.”

Some students, including Smith, were fortunate enough to travel with Grunloh’s trip for a second time.

“Going on the trip, especially a second time, puts you right in the center of a new culture,” he said.

Future plans to study abroad have already started stirring within several students, demonstrating how influential and transformative the trip was.

“My goal is to visit as many countries as I can now,” Olsen said.

The European journey gave many students an experience of a lifetime and had a lasting impact as many were able to expand their American views on the unique cultures that lie beyond the familiar boundaries of the United States.

“Based on two amazing experiences in Europe, I plan to study abroad in college and explore as much of the world as I can,” Smith said. “The trip was a perfect mix of learning and adventure.”