Study abroad– it’s more than a vacation


Abra Richardson

From last summer’s trip, Palatine students and staff in Cologne in front of the cathedral.

Nataly Panczyk, Features Editor

Although most students just recognize them as the German and French students tagging along around Palatine’s hallways, few know the behind-the-scenes planning, preparation, and coordination that goes behind the foreign exchange programs here at PHS. Similarly, it is less often realized that some of PHS’ own students and staff have traveled across the world, as implied by the namesake exchange, and had amazing experiences abroad. 

You might remember on 6 September 2019, several students who traveled to Germany last year, including Abra Richardson, Caio Vidor, and Guejazi Espinoza spoke of their experience in Western Europe during all foreign language periods. 

One of the first cities these students visited was Aachen, Germany, known for gingerbread, iconic church, and mythological healing water, all very important components of the history and culture. In addition to sightseeing as a group, there were optional excursions as well. 

 “Some students went to the Lindt chocolate factory to steal some samples there,” Abra Richardson, a senior at PHS said. 

The remainder of the trip involved exploring castles in Krefeld, the Rhine River in Düsseldorf, and World War II remnants in Cologne. After Germany, the students travelled to the Netherlands, visiting Amsterdam and various smaller attractions. 

“The majority of that time is going to be touristy and shopping,” Guejazi Espinoza, a student who attended the trip, said. 

Other students opted for a more nature-focused excursion, courtesy of their host families. 

“My family took me sailing in the North Sea… it was great,” Caio Vidor said. 

In terms of cost, school-sponsored trips tend to be significantly cheaper than their individual counterparts. For instance, the students last year were only required to pay about $1,250 for their journey abroad. Airfare and spending money are excluded, of course, but the overall cost remains low nonetheless. If this still doesn’t seem feasible, hosting a foreign exchange student is always another option, still offering a great deal of cultural exposure. 

The value of experiencing different cultures and environments might seem incomprehensible now, but most adults wish they’d taken advantage of opportunities like these sooner. 

One example is Erin Lindstrom, an English teacher at Palatine. I can still remember the vivid descriptions of Costa Rica that she’d read aloud to us in my sophomore English class, but only recently did I learn of their origin. 

Lindstrom spent three weeks in high school studying abroad in San Ramón, Costa Rica. Aside from visiting a notoriously “scorching hot beach, the hottest beach you’ve ever been on in your life”  and tropical creatures that “you get accustomed to living with,” she gained much more from the experience. 

“Since high school, Juan Jose is still one of my very, very best friends” Lindstrom said. She elaborated that although she could’ve surely visited Costa Rica another way, she wouldn’t trade her experience for the world. “When you go to other countries, I recommend that you stay away from resorts. You’ll never experience the real Costa Rica if you don’t go like a local.”

Keep this in mind in coming years as opportunities to study abroad float your way. This is especially relevant for rising college freshmen; they will have a plethora of chances to visit foreign nations as they venture into the “real world.” Don’t squander these opportunities. The world is a vast place, and the best way to learn about it is to discover it for yourself.