American invasion: Schrieber takes Europe


The members of the Spain trip in front of a fountain in Puerta de Jerez, Sevilla. Tour guide Fernando Gomez and chaperone Mr. Brian Rapp are absent from the photo.

After a ten year travel drought, the Languages Other Than English (LOTE) department has planned three trips abroad in less than three years. From Apr. 10 to Apr. 19 students in the LOTE department visited seven of Spain’s major cities. Planning for the trip was facilitated by Spanish teacher Ms. Debra Korba-Rapp and a consultant from the company Education First Tours (EF Tours) who designed a tour special for Schreiber students.

“I chose EF Tours because it has a really good reputation, the prices are fair, and I spoke to other teachers who had travelled with them.  Then I chose the trip that I felt my students would get the most wonderful experience from by customizing the tour,” said Ms. Korba-Rapp.  “Having lived and studied in Spain, I knew exactly what I wanted the students to see and do, and EF made it easier.”

Staff members accompanied the 23 students as chaperones. They were guidance counselor Ms. Nori Cerny, Ms. Korba-Rapp, her husband Mr. Brian Rapp, Suffolk County police officer Ms. Jeanne Osias, and Spanish teacher Ms. Evelin Joseph.  Tour guide Fernando Gomez also chaperoned after meeting the group in Madrid.

“My job on the trip was to make sure all the students were safe.  My favorite part was observing the students and how so very interested they were in the culture of Spain and absorbing all of the historical, artistic, and musical knowledge that they were being taught.  Spain was pretty cool but the students from Schreiber High School were most definitely the best part of the trip,” said Ms. Osias.

After landing in Madrid, the group experienced  historical Spain together for the first time. Alongside monuments, the group witnessed protests reflecting economic and political unrest in Spain. There was also a guided excursion to Toledo, Spain’s medieval capital.

Taking the AVE, a high speed Spanish railway, the group moved onto their next destination, Córdoba, where they made tapas and visited what was once the largest mosque west of Mecca.

“Some of the most educational experiences were outside of the monuments, such as seeing riots in Madrid and religious processions in Córdoba,” said junior Ariel Waldman.

On the fifth day the group transferred to Granada, the location of the exquisite Arabian palace of the Alhambra and a center of Moorish influence.

After visiting Ronda, many of the students spent the day at a Mediterranean beach at Torremolinos.

On the last two days of their adventure, the group transferred to Seville, the capital of Andalusia and the location of the famous orange blossoms.  They took part in a flamenco evening.  Flamenco is a unique form of art combining guitar playing, singing, chanting, dancing, and handclapping.

On the trip, senior Julia de Sciora created a blog called Exploración de España for her senior experience about her excursion to Spain.

“This trip has taught me to always jump at those opportunities that make you curious and wonder.  The opportunities that you might doubt.  The opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone.  Finally, the opportunities that make you smile when you think of the experience waiting for you,” read her blog.

The students on the trip agreed.

“The trip for me was a great opportunity because I have Spanish heritage.  For me and other Hispanics on the trip, it felt like a sort of hajj that we needed to do at some point in our lives.  And, personally, I had more fun with the school and friends than I would have with my family.  Obviously, it is impossible to see everything Spain has to offer in just under ten days, but this trip came pretty close to reaching that goal,” said junior Paige Torres.

Ms. Korba-Rapp was also very content with  the results of the trip.

“As far as the ‘value’ of student travel abroad is concerned, we gave them an unforgettable, life changing opportunity to see and experience other countries and cultures.  Simply stated the world becomes a classroom,” said Korba-Rapp.  “They learn without realizing that they are learning.  It’s the most amazing experience ever, and they don’t have to speak the language to enjoy the country, the culture, and of course the food and the people.  These trips definitely impact how they look at things and help them to mature and grow.”

Now, after organizing two successful trips to Spain, Schreiber revealed that next year it will be taking students to Italy instead.  The trip was organized by LOTE teachers Ms. Carol Ferrante and Ms. Korba-Rapp.

“The idea for the Italian trip actually started with Ms. Korba-Rapp,” said Ms. Ferrante.  “Ms. Korba-Rapp is very interested in traveling, so she organized two different trips to Spain.  So I asked her if she could be in charge of making another trip and told her that my students would love to go to Italy.  And she’s such a great organizer, so she agreed.  She organized the trip to Italy, and that’s why we’re going to Italy this year to try and accommodate the various languages.  I couldn’t do it without her.”

Plans for the Italian trip were initially announced at the end of the school year in 2013.  However, major preparations and advertisement for the trip began early this past September.  Unlike the more recent trips to Spain, the Italian trip is offered only to junior and senior students taking Italian and Latin.

“This year it is only for Italian and Latin students,” said Ms. Ferrante.  “Because when they did the first trip to Spain, they first offered it to the students taking Spanish only.  And that filled up right away since this is the first international school trip since 9/11.  But this year, since we didn’t get enough kids to participate that were taking Spanish, we decided to open it up to the general population of Schreiber.  So to be fair to the kids taking Italian and Latin, we limited it only to the students taking that language.”

Students were initially asked to attend one preliminary informational meeting either before or after school.  During this meeting students were given a general overview of the expected itinerary, the requirements to attend, and rules that would apply during the trip.  After these initial meetings, students were asked to come with their parents in the evening to discuss the trip in further detail.

“When we first announced to the students the trip, of course there were a lot of students interested.  We had two meetings both in the a.m. and p.m. and we had over 50 students come during those,” said Ms. Ferrante.  “Of course, kids would be willing, but we don’t know what their parents may think about it.  So that’s why we asked them to come with their parents because those would be the students that would be truly interested in going. We have 30 kids joining us on the trip next year.”

“I personally went to two meetings,” said junior Andrew Costenoble. “Basically, at the meeting, they told us ‘you’re going to be going to Italy,’ roughly what we are going to be doing, safety stuff, stay with the group, it’s going to be an active trip so get ready to get tired, to not expect to be relaxing, payment information, all that fun stuff.”

The trip is planned to be 10 days long and will be taking place during spring break in 2015.  As with the previous two international trips, students will be expected to leave midway through the day the Thursday before vacation.  The rest of the day and part of the next will consist of the overnight flight to the Milan airport.  After meeting the tour guide at the airport, the students will travel to Venice.

From this trip, students have different expectations.  For some, it is an opportunity to enrich their education by learning about other cultures.  Others look to the trip to see language and historical lessons from class in real life.

“Above all, I hope the trip is fun. I’ve been studying Italian in class for so many years,” said junior Chris Wilson.  “I can’t wait to see what it’s like.  I’m looking forward to being able to practice my Italian skills with actual Italians, getting to try the food, and see the famous sites.”

Many of the students attending the trip have never travelled to Europe or anywhere outside of the country.  To them, the trip can be seen as an opportunity to break out of their comfort zone and explore the other side of the world.

“It’s going to be my first time out of the country, so it’s exciting, a little bit scary and I’m a bit apprehensive but overall very excited,” said Costenoble. “I think that it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The students are not the only ones teeming with excitement.  The teachers attending the trip are likewise enthusiastic and look forward to how the experience may affect the students.

Because of the way that the language department is organized, many Latin and Italian students have the same language teacher for more than one year. For Ms. Ferrante, this trip would be her first time traveling with her future AP Italian class who she will have had for four straight years.

“My students are so enthusiastic,” said Ms. Ferrante.  “I am so happy that students who are motivated and who have studied the history, the culture, and the language of the country will be able to see it up-close and personal.  It will be really special to share this experience with the students that  I know so well.”