The Return of International Trips

France and Italy

In just a few short weeks, Project Week will be underway! And this year will finally include the return of international trips. It was 2019 the last time Project Weeks went abroad, and the teams are eager to bring them back. “We are very excited. I am so happy that we can resume (travel trips),” says Mireille Machefert, World Languages Faculty, and leader of the France trip. “Everybody is ready to give their best because they are just so happy to travel again.” 

Sarah Mansour, World Languages Faculty, and leader of the Italy trip details the amount of work her students have put in leading up to their trip. They have all been given a club slot to allow time to prepare as a group, learn cultural respect, and travel etiquette. They are learning basic Italian via Duolingo, and preparing to be student docents at a site of their choosing. Each student selects a destination on the trip, and they become an expert on that site. Once they arrive, that student will play the rule of ‘amateur docent’ and teach the rest of the group about that destination. In addition, while on the trip, each student will write one or more blog posts reflecting on the day’s activities. You can see past year's highlights and follow their blog here

“It’s not a vacation. It’s finally getting to take your Latin, put it to use, and see all the things that you’ve been learning about for four or five years,” Mansour says. The learning really begins as early as sixth grade when Latin students start to learn about different stories from the Roman Empire. Mansour will often tell Middle School students that if they go to Italy as Upper Schoolers they will get the chance to see some of the places from the stories they are learning. 

“This is so closely tied to our Latin curriculum,” says Mansour. “We learn all about the baths, basilicas, amphitheaters, etc, in great detail. Then they get to go there and experience it. It’s how they finally make that connection. By physically being there.” 

“I want them to understand why we study this ancient language and why it’s still valid and relevant,” Mansour says.  

Students visiting France will get to hone their French speaking skills and immerse themselves into the culture during family home stays with a partner school in France. They will attend a French school, visit monuments, learn about art, and learn how to be a gracious guest in a new home. It’s 24/7 learning! “This is a full exchange. The students will be completely immersed with a family. It’s an enormous challenge,” says Machefert. 

During their stays, students will keep a journal of their experience, but realistically they will have little down time on the trip as even their evenings will be spent with their host families. “It’s tiring,” Machefert says, but also adds. “My students are fantastic and motivated.” In the fall, the students will even return the favor and host students from the French school in their homes to visit Overlake and see Seattle sites. 

The international travel trips present a trove of learning opportunities. Students emerge from the trips having been pushed out of their comfort zones and come home with confidence to pursue new experiences. 

The leaders of the international trips hope this is just the beginning of their student’s travel adventures. “This is just a taste we’re giving them,” Mansour says. “When they’re in college I hope they’re learning overseas and using these skills.”

Editor's note: pictures from previous trips