PCEC, PCHS students enjoy locally-led trips to Europe, Japan

Polk County Early College science teacher Kathleen Abraham partnered this past summer with Henderson County teachers to bring students on educational tours to Europe and Japan.

Students from Polk County Early College, Polk County High School, Henderson County Early College and West Henderson High School joined together for the adventure with the student travel company EF Tours.

The Europe route started in the Alps of Switzerland, wound down the coast of Italy, stopped in Monaco, then continued through the south of France before finishing in Barcelona and Madrid. The travelers, with the guidance of a multilingual tour guide and their teacher chaperones, reveled in many cultural and natural attractions. Highlights included riding the cable car up Mount Pilatus in Switzerland, swimming in the Mediterranean, exploring the bold architecture in Barcelona and eating so much delicious food along the way.

The Japan group visited iconic sights in Tokyo, went back in time to historic Kyoto and experienced the excitement of Osaka. This group also visited the Peace Park in Hiroshima. Highlights included riding the bullet train, experiencing Otaku culture and eating so much delicious food.

“I enjoyed exploring a different culture and socializing with new people,” said Maia Walen, a junior at PCEC. “The Japanese people were so kind. I loved visiting different areas, and the shopping was phenomenal. The trip was so much fun.”

“I learned that I can do intimidating things, and have grown braver because of this trip,” said Eden Gardner, a PCEC senior. “I didn’t expect this, but it was really fascinating to see the newer mountains in comparison to the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains I grew up in.”

Polk County High School teachers have a long history of taking students on international tours with EF, but those teachers have since retired. Abraham started taking students from West Henderson High School in 2015 and continued the tradition upon moving to Polk County Schools.

“The trips are life changing,” she said. “Beyond just experiencing important natural, historical and cultural areas, students learn how to navigate the big world in a safe, supported and structured environment. They learn so much about the world, but they also learn so much about themselves.”

Future trips include a June 2024 visit to Rome, Venice, Florence Assisi, Pisa and Perugia. The 2025 trip is a big adventure to Costa Rica that includes nature hikes, ziplining and snorkeling. Any student interested in enrolling a student (must be in at least ninth grade at time of travel) can contact Abraham at kabraham@polkschools.org for information.

Students and families can also attend a virtual informational and enrollment meeting on September 21 at 6 p.m. RSVP and more information

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