Local students travel abroad to new adventures

Wake Forest and Heritage High students tour Europe in educational trips

All across the area, students are united by one desire – to explore the world around them. Students from both Wake Forest and Heritage high schools participated in educational trips to Europe organized by Education First (EF) tours in June.

Many Heritage students embarked on an adventure to Greece and Italy, and Wake Forest students were immersed in the cultures of Spain, France and Italy.

Educational Trip

Wake Forest High student Lauren Brown and Heritage High students Vinny McEvoy, Rachael Leach, Paige Kwiatek and Meg Parmelee take in Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge not destroyed in World War II, located in Florence, Italy. Florence was one of Parmelee’s favorite places to discover during the trip. Photo courtesy of Lauren and Leanna Winstead

Heritage student Meg Parmelee’s boyfriend received a letter about the trip from teachers, and that is how she learned of the trip that she said changed her forever.

“I feel like I came back a different person because I guess I had to do things for myself that I hadn’t done before exactly,” Parmelee said. “I had to take care of myself, and it, of course, was a long way away in a different country with completely different customs.”

Wake Forest student Vy Nguyen, who participated in the trip to Spain, France and Italy, realized one different custom – an appreciation of nature.

“It opened my eyes to the world much more. Where we went, the places and countries, it was mostly mountains and trees. There were a lot of old buildings still standing, like old towers; granted, most of them are coming down,” Nguyen said. “It was weird, in a good way, to see things like that because I’m so used to houses being so close to each other, paved roads, barely any trees. You know, like a city. To see all of the nature was life-changing.”

A life-changing experience was exactly what teacher Leanna Winstead had in mind when she worked with fellow teacher Lauren Winstead, her sister, to launch the Heritage High Greece and Italy trip. Leanna recalled her experience traveling to Spain in high school with her Spanish teachers.

Educational Trip

Wake Forest High students and chaperones stand in front of the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square.
Pictured: Laraib Awan; Jordan Douthit and her mother, Shameka Douthit; Jada Hester; Gabby Misavage and her mother, Julie Misavage; Vy Nguyen; Jack Noble; Natalie Biser and her father, Kenneth Biser; Trinity Burks and her mother, Tiffany Streeter; Austin Burnett; Justin Cheek and his mother, Kathryn Cheek, and his aunt, Diane Hon; Isabel Cox; Melanie Dayan; Nicholas Fitzpatrick; Patrick Garner; Jackson Hackney; Ashlyn Richards; Payge Stearns; Lindsay Vaughn; Chloe Waybright; David Salisbury; Rachel Miller; and tour leaders Jeanette Salisbury and Ann Murphy. Photo courtesy of Ann Murphy

“I jumped at the opportunity because of how amazing my experience was when I was in high school. Traveling abroad changes you, and I was eager to give my students the same experience,” Leanna said. “What we hope that our students gain from these trips is worldly knowledge and experience. Being able to travel abroad in high school opens so many doors for them in college.”

The magical experience, however, requires much preparation. Wake Forest High teacher and chaperone Ann Murphy organized five meetings over the past two years. Interested students learned how to go to the bank and acquire euros as well as discovered more about the places they would be visiting.

One key lesson was to be “responsible for yourself and belongings but also for the group,” Murphy said. “We are ambassadors for Wake Forest High School.”

From the unique situation of representing one’s school on an international escapade, bonds often develop. Parmelee was among the students who made new connections.

Educational Trip

Heritage High student Vinny McEvoy peers into the mountain range of Meteora. Photo courtesy of Lauren and Leanna Winstead

“After being with them a certain amount of time, I found that I had more in common with them than I had in school,” Parmelee said. “People that I had never talked to in school, we would just come up and take pictures. We’d talk about how crazy and beautiful it is.”

The crazy, beautiful journey remains vital to Murphy, who has traveled to Madrid eight times.

“I think that all students should have an opportunity every year to travel overseas because that’s your best classroom,” Murphy said.

For Parmelee and other students, this real-world classroom also stands as a significant memory.

“You have a picture of Greece or Italy or really any European country to be,” Parmelee said, “but it’s so much better than how you imagined, and you’re going to make so many new memories. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life.”

— Suzanne M. Blake | August 2016