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Experiencing Western Europe
Rachelle Garbarine

Three countries, eight cities, ten days, one amazing journey. That is what 35 students and five educators experienced during their recent school-sponsored trip to Western Europe.

Students on Western Europe Trip 2019.

This year, during mid-winter break, the Gibbons travelers immersed themselves in the sights, sounds, and culture of Western Europe, by visiting such historical sites as the Berlin Wall, the former Dachau concentration camp, as well as St. Sebastian Catholic Church. They also visited such modern-day technology marvels as the Volkswagen Glass Factory in Dresden. In between their sightseeing, students and educators encountered the world beyond the classroom and recognized the true meaning of experiential learning.

“While we study these things in books, it is incredibly more meaningful for these students to be present and see with their own eyes the places and events they have studied," notes AP History Educator Taylor Blanton, who organizes the trip.

This year’s trip included an extra treat – visits with not one but three Gibbons Alumni. Kayla Basset ’17 – a student at UNC-Chapel Hill studying aboard this semester in Scotland - joined Gibbons travelers for lunch in Berlin. A few days later, the group met two alumni for dinner and a walk-in Prague. They were Ryan Lenzmeier ’12, who teaches English in France, and Heather Freddosa ’12, a nurse at UNC Hospitals, who was visiting Europe.(pictured left with Taylor Blanton far left.)  While in Prague, the group missed by a few days meeting Sean Larkin ’17, a Clemson student who is studying aboard in Paris. These alumni visits, arranged on this side of Atlantic before the February trip, breathe life into the #Gibbons Everywhere.

Blanton agrees and adds: “It is awesome to see Gibbons Alumni studying aboard, especially how many of them are doing so after having been on previous Gibbons trips to Europe.”

Gibbons students on Western Europe trip 2019 visiting  VW plant.

The rest of the trip was equally memorable - just ask Sean Cleary ’19. Magical is how Cleary describes his experience. He elaborates: “It was incredible to see such historical places with my classmates and friends. We saw how different people live and the many different ways there are to do things.” 

Next year, students going on the Western Europe trip will travel to Paris, London, and the Normandy region. In these cities, students and educators will see landmarks such as Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, and the English Channel.

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