Students Embark On Delayed Europe Experience

Group visited England, France and Italy with EF Tours

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After a long delay, students that signed up to travel with Education First (EF) tour company finally embarked on their trip abroad this summer. 

Sign up began in 2019, with a prospective departure  the summer of 2021. Due to Covid-19, the trip was postponed until the summer of 2022. 

Some of the students who originally signed up for the trip in 2019 graduated high school, leaving a mix of fresh alumni and current high school students. Since the trip was postponed one year, it gave more students a chance to sign up. 

With an itinerary jam-packed full with iconic destinations, it was a no-brainer pick for Jeanette Salisbury, a teacher and group leader for the trip. 

“We chose this itinerary as there was the opportunity to visit three major European capitals in a short period of time, and we could include many highlights from each city on this trip,” Salisbury said. 

With incredible destinations such as London, Paris, Rome, Florence and Capri on the tour, senior Allie Sharpe describes what made her decide to join. 

“In the past I always thought international travel wasn’t possible or achievable for someone as young as I am, so when I saw the opportunity, I had to jump on it. The sunset in Paris really caught my eye. Walking along the Seine River during sunset was one of the most peaceful and happy moments of my life,” Sharpe said. 

Sophomore Kenzie Anderson signed up for the excursion alongside Sharpe.  

“I have always wanted to go to Paris ever since I was little. My friend Allie wanted to go, so I went with her,” Anderson said. 

With so many destinations on the itinerary, it can be hard to choose a favorite. 

Senior Paige Hederick describes some of her favorite memories from the trip. 

“My favorite city that we visited on the trip was Capri, Italy. The environment looked and felt as if it was out of the Mamma Mia movies. The crystal blue waters and lively colors of nature stood out,” Hederick said. 

For Salisbury, Italy and England stood out as favorites. 

“I always enjoy visiting the south of Italy and the beautiful island of Capri, but being in London and seeing the Changing of the Guards was a fun highlight too,” Salisbury said. 

Traveling to Europe consisted of mostly outdoor activities. From strolling around Piccadilly Circus in the center of London to exploring the grand palace and gardens of Versailles, no short amount of walking is included. 

In addition, Europe experienced a heat wave this summer, with temperatures rising above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in some cities. In each city with a considerable enough stay, the group received a guided walking tour, which often meant standing in direct sunlight for long periods of time. 

Junior Jason Spargo, a trip participant, gives advice on packing for future adventures. 

“I definitely would have brought a mini fan to hold as we walked. Since we are in a tour, there are times when we can’t stop and rest, so that would have helped to cool off in the hotter areas,” Spargo said. 

When jumping from country to country, Salisbury explains her standard packing suggestions for travelers on EF tours. 

“We always recommend students pack light for a summer trip. Many students just used a carry-on suitcase for this trip, and we had no lost or delayed luggage,” Salisbury said.  

The Wake Forest EF Tour group combined with another EF Tour group from New York. There were 26 Wake Forest travelers and 14 from upstate New York. In total, the entire group consisted of 40 people. Traveling with a group of considerable size abroad requires a learning curve. 

Sharpe explains a challenge that the group had to work through in order to stay on time for all excursions and ensure nothing on the itinerary had to be cut out. 

“One challenge my group faced was to be on time. To overcome this we had a ‘real’ time to meet (when travelers actually had to leave), and a ‘fake’ time to meet (when travelers would aim to get to our meeting spot) which was a few minutes before the ‘real’ time. This helped us get to our meeting places with time to spare,” Sharpe said. 

With a whirlwind tour of three countries, many cultures and societal norms were experienced in a remarkably short period of time. 

“The biggest culture shock was the style of dress in most European countries. Typically it is not as relaxed as the United States is. Most noticeable was the amount of clothing coverage,” Hederick said. 

Spargo describes a culture shock he experienced in the dining aspect of European culture. 

“You had to specify that you wanted ice in your drink, otherwise you wouldn’t get any ice, compared to America where you always get ice in your drink at a restaurant,” Spargo said. 

On top of experiencing a different culture from home, a number of students traveled without their parents. 

“Traveling with a school group was a little different from traveling with family or close friends, “Sharpe said. “There was a little more freedom and more responsibilities for the students on the trip. There is also a greater opportunity for you to meet new people and socialize!” 

Kenzie Anderson describes her experience on the trip. 

“I had fun making new friends. The chaperones were nice. Everyone had a great time,” Anderson Said.

After reflecting on the numerous memories made with newfound friends on the trip, Spargo explains the feeling of bonding with people through the shared experience of travel, as well as gaining the chance to travel independently as a high school student. 

“It was nice to travel with the school group because it allowed me to meet and talk to new people I had never met. Comparatively, traveling with my parents is not as fun because there is nobody my age I could become friends with,” Spargo said. 

After reflecting on all of the memories from the trip, it can be hard to choose the one standout moment. Sharpe reminisces on a nostalgic moment from the summer. 

“One of my favorite memories from the trip was our afternoon in Sorrento. We had already spent some time in Italy, and were getting a little sick of the heat, so our bus driver picked out a beach in Sorrento to spend our afternoon at,” Sharpe said. “It was so nice to relax in the water and lounge on the giant rocks. The water was so salty in the Mediterranean that we could easily float. We did pay for it later once we were dry and felt covered with salt.”

With a minimum of three countries visited by the EF travelers, many are inspired to explore even more places. 

“I’m curious what the German countryside is like. That would have to be on my bucket list,” Spargo said.

For students interested in traveling with EF, the school has a tour traveling to Central Europe in mid-June of 2023, right after graduation. The tour is to Berlin, Prague, Krakow and Budapest.

Salisbury explains more future tours, which will depart starting the summer of next year. Sign up is still available. 

“In mid-July, we will have our long-awaited ten-day tour to Japan. In 2024 we are traveling to France and Spain on a very extensive 12-day trip during the summer of the 2024 Paris Olympics,” Salisbury said. “Our final tour will be a shorter trip to Ireland and England in mid-July 2024 where we will visit Ireland, Wales and England for eight nights and nine days. On this trip, we will visit three medieval castles, attend an Irish music and dance concert in Dublin, visit the home of Shakespeare at Stratford Upon Avon and spend two days in London.”