Sturgis Travels (Spring 2012)

Costa Rica ~ Jenn Kirk, Spanish West

Last summer 29 rising seniors and five teachers went on an unforgettable and life-changing expedition to Costa Rica with World Challenge. The students spent 16 months fundraising and preparing for the trip.  The highlight of our preparation was a weekend camping trip in the Berkshires during the Fall of 2010.  There the students learned skills they would need for their upcoming adventure: how to set up and take down a tent, how to use camping stoves to prepare meals, how to manage a budget, and how to work together as a team.  All of these activities helped prepare for a trip that no Sturgis students had participated in before.

This was not your traditional school trip, with all of the arrangements made in advance. On the World Challenge expedition,  students were responsible for everything once in Costa Rica, from arranging transportation to our different destinations and finding lodging in hostels.  Students had to manage a budget and figure out how to feed the team on $6 per person per day.  They bought groceries, cooked and cleaned up after meals.   Our Spanish speaking students had many opportunities to put their knowledge of the language into practice as they worked through these challenges.

The most exciting part of the 14-day expedition was the time we spent on an organic farm in the town of Bijagua, tucked between two volcanoes in a stunning rainforest setting, where we woke up every morning to the sound of howler monkeys. We dealt with numerous challenges: no running water for 24 hours, biting ants, a swarm of termites and sunburn. Our local guides Marlon and Henry helped us to complete a variety of service projects such as cleaning up a bus stop in town, building a trail into the rain forest, setting up a water tank, and landscaping at a local ecotourism office. We planted rows and rows of yucca, pineapple and plantain while fighting off biting ants. We also had the chance to visit a school where we played games with local children and donated school supplies. We concluded our days of hard work with fun and competitive soccer games with our new “Tico” (short for Costan Rican) friends.

The trip was full of adventure, challenge, lots of laughter and fun.  As they say in Costa Rica, it was Pura Vida!

Italy ~ Travis Andrade, Latin West

This year’s trip to Italy was a joint effort between the Art and Latin Departments to provide each participant with an experience that explored both the artistic and historical contributions that the Italian people and their Roman forebears have had on the world we inhabit today.  The trip started out in the small city of Asissi where we explored the Basilica of St. Francis along with many other important religious and historical buildings found in the city.  From Asissi, following a brief stop in the town of Perugia, we went on to Florence and walked in the footsteps of some of the greatest artists, poets, writers and architects of the Renaissance.   The second day in Florence also featured five hours of free time for our participants to explore the city.  As a group leader, 5 hours of free time provided me with a mildly stressful afternoon, but true to form, our Sturgis travelers handled themselves with poise and confidence finding their way back to the appointed location at the appointed time with no issues.  While exploring the city, Mr Scott must have set some sort of record with the number of cappuccinos he consumed in one afternoon, and Mr. Richenburg led us on the now famous quest for the Jaunty…(ask him).  All in all, despite cold rainy weather, Florence was a wonderful experience for all.

Following Florence, we went onto Rome.  Our first day, we explored the Forum Romanum and the Coliseum.  The Coliseum is a solemn and holy place that to this day still leaves a person breathless as you walk its hallowed grounds.  Mr. Scott was disappointed as he could not get his hands on quite as many cappuccinos as in Florence but agreed that the sites and the emerging warm weather were worth it.  Our second day in Rome found us in the Vatican with a guided tour of the Cistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  Once again, the majesty of these architectural achievements overwhelmed us all.  Our minds spinning, we left the Vatican and explored Rome on our own mini tour (self-guided) by my wife Catheren to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps.  All three sites added important breadth to our experience in Rome.  At one point we even ended up in a piazza filled with armed Carabinieri (Italian Military Police) who were clearly prepared for something.  Hearts racing, we made it to the Spanish Steps then back to the Piazza Venezia (also known as Victor Emmauel’s Monument or simply the wedding cake) in one piece.

From Rome we traveled to Naples and Pompei where we spent a beautiful afternoon walking among one of the best preserved ancient Roman towns.  Like the Coliseum, it is a solemn experience as it is as much a graveyard as archaeological park with Vesuvius ever looming.  From Pompei, we traveled to the town of Sorrento where we spent a night on the town exploring the local cuisine and shopping.  The following morning we traveled to the Island of Capri.  We traveled half way around the island by boat, seeing where movie stars sometimes spend their summers and where the insane Emperor Tiberius disposed of his victims.  We then spent the rest of the day exploring the Island on foot (lots of hills).  Leaving Capri, we returned to Rome and the long trip home, highlighted by the 2012 Sturgis Mad Dash through Zurich Airport.  Our flights were broken into two groups and the second group only had 36 minutes to get from one terminal to our connecting flight through passport control.  Needless to say, one of my endearing memories of this trip (other than Mr. Albis’ dry wit) is 23 Sturgis students and chaperones sprinting through an airport with onlookers cheering us and Caroline Lee leading the entire way.

It was a wonderful trip and experience for everyone involved.  I want to thank my chaperones, Peter ‘jaunty’ Richenburg, Dr. Robert ‘funny man’  Albis, Justin cappuccino Scott, Anna (pronounced Anna in Italian) Botsford, Caroline ‘happy to have hot water’ Lee and Catheren ‘my wife’ Andrade.  Without great chaperones there cannot be a great trip and these were the best. I also want to thank all 45 participants on the trip.  It was stressful at times but you brought great credit upon your school, your country, and especially yourselves.  I was extremely proud of how you conducted yourselves…if only we had gotten ‘Bessy’ home but that is another story for another time…

I typically run trips every other year.  Currently I am beginning to ponder a Rome to Sicily or Athens to Istanbul Trip in February of 2014.  Stay tuned for more information next fall…

Peru ~ Megan Briggs, Spanish East

 A group of 30 students and five chaperones recently returned from an exciting nine-day trip to Peru! The trip was full of adventure, stunning natural beauty, breathtaking sights of Inca ruins, new and exotic foods (like aji, alpaca, and even guinea pig), music, various challenging treks with lots of Inca stairs, a few real learning experiences in hospitals and airports, and a whole lot of laughter and fun! As part of our exciting itinerary, we were able to visit Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, and Pisac, among other places. Some students took an optional tour to Maras and Moray.  Students and adults on the trip continuously learned about and viewed first-hand the amazing history and cultures of Peru, especially (but not only) from the Incan empire.

One highlight from the trip was our visit to the Casa Hogar San Judas Chi-co orphanage, in Cusco. This orphanage houses 45 girls between the ages of 5 and 18, many of whom suffer from complex psychological and emotional issues. Sturgis students enjoyed playing with the girls for a couple hours with new soccer balls, basketballs, and volleyballs that we donated. We also donated sandals and PE uniforms to all 45 girls–a donation requested specifically by the orphanage director. After returning from our trip, we made a cash donation to A Baby Center. Our fundraising efforts included pizza sales, bracelet sales, and a great Zumbathon. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Rene King, who organized the Zumbathon, along with: parents, family, friends, Zumba instructors and participants, Shaws, Plum Porch, Trader Joe’s, Cape Cod Health Food Store, Casual Gourmet, Wicked Dance Academy, and all other generous supporters.

Lauren Clingan, Class of 2013

 Peru was an amazing experience. I met so many people and made new friends. It was interesting to see the differences between Lima and Cuzco, and to learn more about the culture of Peru. Our group had amazing tour guides who helped us to see not only the beautiful mountains and Incan ruins but to also understand the history of Peru. Visiting the girls’ orphanage in Cuzco was especially inspiring because it made me realize how much we have and how much I am grateful for, and how strong people can really be. These girls have been through so much, and yet they were still so positive!  I’ll never forget when we first arrived at the orphanage, and the girls came to the gate and were looking at us, and then right when they opened the gates this one little girl took my hand and showed me all around the orphanage, not letting go of my hand the whole time. The girls were so trusting right from the moment we saw them, and I was so glad that I speak Spanish because I could talk to them! I learned so much in Peru, not just about the history of Peru, how to speak Spanish more fluently, or how to salsa dance but about the people there who could use our help, like the girls in the orphanage.  This was a great experience because we not only saw this beautiful country, but we made bonds with the people there. I will never forget our trip!

Abbie Titcomb, Class of 2013

Looking back on the Peru trip, more than a month later, I am starting to realize just what an amazing experience the trip was. Not only did we get to experience the Peruvian culture first hand, but we got to experience the best and worst parts of traveling, for instance, the spontaneity of dancing in a restaurant after dinner, to getting parasites. With so many social media sites out there and the exponential growth of the internet and what we can learn from the internet, there seems to be less of a need for travel. However, no matter what you read or see on the internet, there is nothing like climbing hundreds of steps in Machu Picchu, or playing with the children in the Cuzcan orphanage. The trip for me meant hundreds of memories that I will never forget, and even through all of the hardships of travel, it fostered an eagerness in me to travel more, and see more.

Quebec ~ Hayara Cardoso, Lucie Palmeri

Québec 2012 was a grand success! Although the trip definitely had its ups and downs, the adventure was amazingly worthwhile. The trip started off to a bumpy start after being stranded for a few hours at the Canadian border because of some technical difficulties, but thankfully the group was saved by a bus from Montreal! The following day was kicked off by breakfast at the hostel, then a walk down to the Carnival site, where we spent a majority of the day exploring and being emerged into Quebecois culture! After a slipping accident involving Madame O’Keefe, the day’s events were put on hold in order for Madame to get the proper medical attention. That afternoon, the students were able to walk into the city of Old Québec for some shopping and exploration. Later that night, the group went to a splendid Moroccan restaurant for dinner and back to the hostel for a quiet night in. The following morning, there was a walking tour of upper town Old Québec, including historical landmarks, hotels, and shops. That afternoon, the group returned to the site of the Carnival for the closing ceremonies, then proceeded to the Chateau Frontenac for shopping, and dinner at Mike’s, an Italian restaurant. The following morning, the group parted with the beautiful city, saying mournful goodbyes with hopes they will all return in the future. The trip was a great learning and bonding experience, and was absolutely superb, even with all the troubles that the group faced together.

Future Travel Opportunities

Costa Rica – February 2013

During February break of 2013 (February 14-22), Spanish teacher Claire Shea will lead a group of East and West students to Costa Rica! During this nine-day tour, students will visit the Arenal region, Monteverde, Caraca, San José and Sarchi. They will be exploring volcanos, hot springs, waterfalls, a local school, an ecosystem park, a cloud forest, a biological reserve, a national park, and will be zip-lining through canopies! Spanish is not required. The Costa Rican tour director will be fluent in English, but Spanish students are highly encouraged to come on the trip, as they will have the opportunity to practice speaking, hearing and reading Spanish on a daily basis. The goals of the trip are for students to become familiar with a new culture and examine their own experiences through a new perspective, to have fun, and to explore a new level of what it means to be an International Baccalaureate student! Elie Rabinowitz, a Spanish teacher from Sturgis West, will also be chaperoning.  So far, sixteen students have signed up – we are expecting a big group of students!

Ecuador World Challenge – Summer 2012

At the beginning of this summer (June 23-July 6), English teacher Morgan Derby will lead a 14-day World Challenge trip to the Ecuadorian Andes and Amazon. The World Challenge trip sets itself apart as one of the most life-changing and meaningful trips Sturgis offers, as students on the trip get to learn and practice critical collaborative leadership, and self-care skills by planning the entire adventure themselves: the budget, itinerary, accommodations, meals, everything! Once in-country, the team will begin and end its travels in Quito, Ecuador’s beautiful, historic capitol, which was once the heart of the Incan Empire. From there, we’ll head to Cotopaxi (the highest volcano in Ecuador) to acclimate as we explore the páramo (an ecosystem that exists nowhere else on Earth) and the stunning mountain vistas of the Avenida de los Volcanes. We’ll then head North for some trekking in the Amazon rainforest, complete with canyon and waterfall views, and sightings of some of the flora and fauna of the most biodiverse country on Earth. The team will then embark on the service phase of the trip, working on repairs, painting, and gardening for a three-classroom school community in the Amazon. Finally, if we have time before flying home, we may even go to Otavalo – the largest indigenous market in the world – or to Mitad del Mundo to stand on both sides of the Equator at once!

Grand Canyon Havasupai Adventure – April 2013

During April break of 2013 (April 13-18), Biology and Environmental Systems teacher Peter Sampou <> will lead a group to the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Reservation. All arrangements for the trip are being made through Grand Classroom – Student Educational Travel Tours, a company that has been leading student groups on outdoor adventure trips to the national parks since 2002. After arriving in Phoenix, the group will visit Slide Rock State park, Flagstaff, hike 10 miles into Havusu Canyon and camp there for 2 nights, visit Sunset Crater and Wapatki National Monuments, have a float trip on the Colorado River, hike the South Kaibab Trail to Mather Point in the Grand Canyon.


Along with other Sturgis West Latin teachers, I am organizing a student exchange with Liceo Classico “Gen. A. Cascino,” a high school in Piazza Armerina, Sicily.  I personally organized an exchange program with this same high school a number of years ago, when I taught in Utah.

The genius of this program is that students are hosted by their peers and go to school with them and live with their families for a week and a half.  It therefore allows students from both countries to see the “real” Italy and United States, as opposed to quickly going from place to place according to a rigid schedule and spending nights in hotels.  In this case, 28 students from Liceo Classico are scheduled to arrive on August 31 and will live with Sturgis West students and their families.  While here, they will shadow our students in school for 2-3 days but take day trips during other times to cultural, historical, and recreational sites in this area and Boston.  They will fly home on September 9.  Sturgis West students then will travel to Sicily and be hosted by their “brothers” or “sisters” and their families for a week and a half.  Our travel dates are April 13-22, 2013, during the April school break.  Students will spend a couple of days shadowing in school.  Day trips that already have been planned for us include Siracusa, the Greek theater in Taormina, Greek temples in Agrigento, and several museums in Palermo.  By the way, Piazza Armerina itself is famous around the world for having the best-preserved polychromatic mosaics from Roman times at a site just outside town.

There still are slots available for 2-3 Sturgis West girls, if their families are interested in participating in this exchange.  Please contact me directly if you would like to host a student from Sicily August 31-September 9 and then have your daughter go there April 13-22, 2013

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