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The City Journals

Paradigm students travel to Italy, Germany to learn more about culture

Sep 09, 2019 11:14AM ● By Julie Slama

Paradigm High students walked the streets of Florence, Italy, taking in the art, music and culture. (Jennifer Shaw/Paradigm High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

For more than one year, Paradigm High graduate Keegan McCurdy saved his money. He worked a summer job at a day care and he served hot dogs on Saturdays and holidays at RC Willey so he could go on his first trip not only out of state on his own but out of the country.

In the weeks after Paradigm High’s trip to Italy and Germany, Keegan said it was worth every hour of work that paid his senior trip expenses.

“It was a great trip,” he said. “I learned and saw so much.”

The trip for the group from Paradigm, who joined other students from Florida and Ohio, began in Rome, where a guide who shared with them the history and background of the sites they visited.

They learned about ancient Rome as they visited the Pantheon, a former Roman temple that now is a church; the Colosseum, which could hold 50,000 spectators as the largest amphitheater ever built at the time; the Museum of the Capuchin Crypt, where in its small chapels below the church is believed to have the remains of 3,700 Capuchin friars; and in Vatican City, St. Peter's Basilica, the well-known Italian Renaissance church; and Sistine Chapel, the official residence of the pope and where Michelangelo painted his famous fresco on the ceiling between 1508 and 1512.

“The Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo painted is really cool; it looked much better than in the books,” McCurdy said.

The group also walked from the Spanish Steps, where they ate gelato, to Trevi Fountain. Here, they learned the legend that tossing one coin into the fountain means you'll return to Rome, tossing two coins means you'll return and fall in love with a Roman, and tossing three coins means you'll return, find love and marry.

Each night, the group ate four-course traditional meals with antipasti, pasta, a main course and dessert before they settled into their villa, an old Tuscan farmhouse.

Sophomore Aiden Rivera, who also earned his way to travel on his first international trip, said the food was a highlight.

“The first day, we had a margarita pizza, and it was really good,” he said. “It was a lot different than our pizza. It was handmade with a thin crust, light layers of cheese, tomato and seasoning, not as processed as ours. And the gelato was amazing; I wanted to have more.”

McCurdy agreed.

“I liked Italy because the food was yummy and awesome,” he said. “[What] I disliked was there was strange people who would try to pickpocket you. You had to be very careful of your money. My favorite place in Italy was Florence. There are some really cool statues, really different than here.”

While on their walking tour of the city, they saw the octagonal Baptistery of St. John in the middle of Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza San Giovanni, near the Florence Cathedral; Ponte Vecchio, the oldest medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, and is known for housing little shops filled with artwork; and David, the marble masterpiece of Michelangelo, who sculpted the Biblical hero before painting the Sistine Chapel.

While some students went shopping, others climbed to see the view of the city from the old fort, Forte di Belvedere. The group also took a tour of a leather shop.

“We learned and saw a demonstration about how they make art from leather,” Paradigm teacher Jennifer Shaw said. “Leather is big in Florence. For hundreds of years it is known as the home of the best leather craftsmanship in the world. It was beautiful.”

The next day, the group set out on their tour bus for Verona, where they learned about Romeo and Juliet. Shaw said not only did they learn about the love story made famous by playwright William Shakespeare but the stories behind them. One of which is at her house, there is a tradition if you write your name on a lock with the name of your loved one and attach it to the gate, you’re locked for everlasting love.

They also saw the first-century Colosseum, which is still in use today, most known for its opera performances. 

“As we traveled across Italy, we learned that in the south, the farmlands are for family farms, where they would sell directly to small neighborhood stores,” Shaw said. “In the north, there are bigger fields with machinery, and it looked different.” 

As the group reached the northern most part of Italy, it crossed into the Alps, which border Italy, Austria and Germany.

“We stayed in a small town that looked like Midway more than the Italy we had seen,” Shaw said. “The area was influenced with Bavarian culture — the food, the buildings, the music.” 

Rivera said going on a 5 a.m. hike there was his favorite part of the nine-day trip.

“It was amazing being in the hotel in the mountains,” he said. “A couple of us got up early before breakfast and went hiking through farmland and into the forest. It was beautiful. We saw lots of animals, and it was quieter, without the pollution.”

Rivera also enjoyed the traditional German food of brats and pretzels “bigger than my head.”

In Germany, the group learned about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, walking through Hohenschwangau Castle, which his father, Maximillian II built. The group learned  that Ludwig II would look through his telescope to watch the construction progress on his own residence, Neuschwanstein Castle. It was meant to be where he would live but only got to spend 11 nights in the incomplete castle before he died, Shaw said.

Shaw said Munich was a vast change from the Italian cities they had toured.

“Everything was different — more modern with glass buildings and modern cars rather than Italy’s tiny cars, motorcycles and scooters,” she said.

The students toured the BMW museum, watched the detailed figures dance in the glockenspiel in Rathaus Square, saw 3,000 creatures at Sea Life aquarium, visited the 1972 Olympic Village and climbed 306 stairs at St. Peter’s Basilica to get a view of the city.

“As a mentor (teacher), I feel passionate that our scholars (students) get the connection from books to the sights, the historical importance, the culture, the language we study,” Shaw said. “We had scholars research events and places before we left so they could share what they learned when we got there and would have a greater appreciation and understanding of the culture and history.”

One of the last sites the group saw, and perhaps, the most poignant moment, was Dachau concentration camp where prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment, Shaw said.

“Seeing Dachau was definitely more sober for the group,” she said. “They learned prisoners had to walk miles from the railroad station to the camp. The foundations of the barracks are there, and we learned that there often would be nine people in a bunk. We saw the gas chambers and the memorials that were built to remember these people.”

Rivera said that he “felt a lot of emotions there.”

“We didn’t talk at all, but we could feel death,” he said. “I thought more would have been destroyed, but so much of it remained for us to learn from.”

Shaw said students told her the trip had greatly impacted their lives.

“It’s amazing what connections they made and how their perspective of the world and people has changed,” she said. “We saw places we learned about, met people and made friendships, and have lots and lots of memories.”