Nordonia High School students embark on European tour

by Nicole Rosselot

This past June, a dozen adventurous Nordonia High School students traveled across the Atlantic to the European countries of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The 10-day trip, led and planned by NHS English and German teacher Endre Szentkiralyi, allowed the students to expand their learning beyond the classroom.   

According to Szentkiralyi, who chaperoned the trip along with NHS art teacher Kristi Gunyula, international trips are an invaluable learning experience for the students. “They see that there are millions of people that use the German language and it gives them a practical reason to learn the language,” he said. “It has a multiplier effect on your learning and when you come back from a trip like this suddenly you’re making the connections that you read about in a history book … and it really broadens your perspective.”

The trip, offered by Nordonia High School and open to all NHS students, was approved by the Nordonia Hills City School Board of Education and arranged through EF Educational Tours. The touring company provided a tour director who organized all the logistics of the trip, including a COVID-19 contingency plan, lodging and a tour bus for transportation. The tour director also provided background information and stayed with the group 24/7. “Sometimes we also had a local tour guide, like in Vienna and Munich we had locals who gave us background and led us on a one or two-hour tour,” Szentkiralyi said.

The group’s itinerary included a wide variety of activities. The Austrian cities of Vienna and Salzburg were favorite stops, as was “The Sound of Music” tour in Salzburg. One of the most “powerful and emotional” moments of the trip was a visit to the WWII Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site in Dachau, Germany, Szentkiralyi said.

Other highlights included stops in the German cities Cologne and Munich, as well as Innsbruck, Austria, and Lucerne, Switzerland. Students enjoyed a cruise on the Rhine River and a visit to a castle in Bavaria, Germany.

“Neuschwanstein is the famous castle that the Disney castle is modeled after and it was pretty amazing to see the original,” Szentkiralyi said. The group even journeyed 7,000 feet to the top of Mt. Pilatus in the Swiss Alps. “We had a really nice combination of big city and rural outings so it was really a broad tour,” he said.         

The structure of the trip allowed for increasing amounts of free time for the students, providing them with important opportunities to practice their German language skills and immerse themselves in local culture. At the beginning of their trip, students had an hour to get lunch on their own, but as the trip progressed, they had several hours in which to visit museums and other sites and navigate public transportation.

“The rule of thumb was you can never be alone, you have to have a partner,” Szentkiralyi said. “There were safety [protocols] built in and so I would characterize it as controlled freedom.”

Throughout the trip, Szentkiralyi observed, students grew in confidence and maturity. “The amount of maturing that happens in ten days in terms of their confidence and their language skills is really amazing,” he said. “And later, when I have them in class after a trip like this, they get more out of the class because they have something to connect the curriculum to.”

Szentkiralyi added that the students represented their Nordonia Hills community well. “They follow instructions, they think for themselves, they have situational awareness, they are polite and kind and it really is a testament to their parents how wonderful these kids are,” he said. ∞

Photo: NHS students visited the largest 2-spired cathedral in Europe, located in Cologne, Germany. Photo from Twitter.