Marion students walk the sites of high school lit class

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
It’s not often someone gets to take a trip of a lifetime, but 19 Marion High School students returned home this weekend from just such an excursion.

Under the guidance and supervision of Diana Costello, senior English instructor at MHS, the 19 students departed from Wichita on Wednesday, June 2, and returned Saturday, June 12, after spending time in Ireland, Wales, England and France.

Costello has taught at MHS for five years and taught dual credit English through Butler County Community College for eight years prior to that. This adventure marked her second trip abroad in the past three years.

“I took 18 students two years ago to England,” Costello said. “My goal is to visit all the places of the literature that I teach.”

Costello said the trip was meant to be educational, and it didn’t disappoint anyone.

“I just hoped the kids would open their eyes, ears and everything to a different culture,” Costello said. “None of them had traveled outside the United States and I think that’s important to educate kids in differences in cultures.

“The most important aspect of the trip though, was to enhance my classroom.”

Planning for the adventure began last year.

“We had to sign up in December,” said Amber Richmond, who will be a senior this fall at MHS. “Most of us just saved as much money as possible, but I’m sure most of the students had help from their parents.”

Cost of the trip was about $2,000 per student, a price Costello called a bargain.

“That was very reasonable considering this price included our air fare, hotels, transportation, two meals a day and tickets for all of our activities,” she said.

The trip was held in cooperation with BCCC; accommodations were made through Explorica, a student travel service.

Landing at Heathrow Airport in London, the group headed for Dublin, Ireland, to begin its odyssey.

“Everything in Ireland was just magical,” Costello said. “We had a lot of photographers on the trip with us, and I can hardly wait to see the pictures because I know they’ll be wonderful.”

Costello said the itinerary emphasized seeing sights that pertain to her English literature curriculum.

“We went to Trinity College in Dublin and walked the trail of Jonathan Swift and saw where he was buried and saw a bust of him,” she said. “A lot of literature we’ll study, like ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and ‘A Modest Proposal,’ talk about the poverty of the Irish and the politics of England that allowed that to happen. We walked (those sites.)”

Seeing buildings that are hundreds of years old left a lasting impression on Costello and the group.

“There aren’t even buildings in our country that are that old,” she said. “Just to see the cobblestone streets in Dublin and the ruins of castles and the castles that are still in use was amazing.

“There just isn’t anything comparable to that in this country.”

Richmond said her experiences in Costello’s class next fall should be enhanced because of the trip.

“We learned a lot about Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway, and I think when I take the class,” she said. “It’ll be a lot more informative and enjoyable.

“We’ll probably have a little better understanding and be a little more eager to learn about the subject since we went there.”

With the current global instability, Costello said safety was on the group’s mind, but not a worry.

“It’s a concern to stay in the United States, so we chose not to think about that,” she said. “I know the last leg of our trip there were threats to the Paris Metro, and I’m sure there were some parents back home worried about that. But we got along just fine.”

Richmond said the group was advised to be especially careful about the threat of pickpockets.

“We wore our backpacks in front some, but we never really felt unsafe,” she said.

Costello said people in all four countries treated them with respect.

“The people in Ireland we so friendly, and I’ve never had trouble in England,” she said. “Our guide in Wales was great, but I had concerns when we were going to France.

“We were told if we made an attempt to speak French, even something as simple as bonjour, they’d help us,” she added. “And they did, and most of the French turned out to be very helpful.”

Picking a favorite location or event was hard for Richmond.

“We spent the most time in Ireland, so that was probably my favorite,” she said finally. “But I thought Paris was really pretty, and seeing the Eiffel Tower was the highlight of my trip.

“I think most of the girls really liked that, too.”

Costello said she hopes the trip produced the desired objective: provoking her students to think.

“These kids were being lectured while they were on the bus as well as from the guides,” she said. “Now, when they pick up the books next year, they’ll have seen those areas. They’ll have seen the countryside where the farmers had to scrape out crops from the rocky hillside, and we even had to stop to let the sheep cross the road.

“It’s nothing they’ll ever see in the state of Kansas.”

Discipline was never a problem, Costello said.

“These kids were so great on the trip,” she said. “I was very proud of them.”

Expectations prior to the trip were high, but those expectations were exceeded, Costello said.

“It was more than I expected and I was expecting it to be a fabulous trip,” she said. “I’m still in awe of the whole experience, but learning is part of being a teacher so I learned all I could.”

“I think it fulfilled all of our expectations,” Richmond said. “We had a lot of fun and got to see a lot of really interesting places.”

Barely home from this strip, Costello said plans are already in the making for the next one.

“I’m looking forward to our next trip to Scotland and England in two years,” she said. “Then I will have been to all the places of the literature that I teach.”

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