RMHS French and Spanish Trips Cancelled

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States hard, and with it came a multitude of regulations and restrictions to ensure the safety of American citizens, one of which being travel bans. Within the United States, each state has a list of other U.S. states to which citizens should refrain from traveling. If an individual travels to one of these states, they are required to abide by the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their return. Additionally, the CDC recommends avoiding all nonessential international travel. This means all vacations, excursions, and organized trips should be postponed indefinitely, to avoid exposure to the virus. 

A longstanding tradition at Rolling Meadows—and a fan favorite to all those who’ve attended—is the school’s biennial Spain and France trips. Students in Spanish 4/AP Spanish, French 4/AP French, or AP European History are eligible to spend their spring break in either France or Spain with their respective class and teachers. The 2021 France tour itinerary, for example, constitutes a 9-day travel plan of exploring multiple cities within the country, including Paris, Sarlat, Provence, and Côte d’Azur. The hope for these trips is that students can not only apply the curriculum that they’ve learned in class but that they can also experience the culture firsthand.

As expected, many students and staff members are disheartened by the cancellation of their beloved trips. Sara Kahle-Ruiz, who teaches French 1 through AP French, said this coming spring break would have been her eighth trip with the program. In light of the unfortunate news, she reflects on past experiences.

“We took the underground Métro to the center of Paris, we emerged in front of the Opéra Garnier (which is a beautiful Neo-Baroque style building) and I took off in the direction of our first tour stop, only to realize that no one was following me.  I stopped and turned around and there were all my students just standing there in awe of just being in Paris and the site of the Opera House.  One of my students said to me with tears in her eyes ‘This is what I’ve always dreamed about.’”

Traveling to Europe is undoubtedly a valuable experience for language students. Having the ability to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world allows students to fully immerse themselves in the culture, as well as simply comprehending the language.

“It is amazing to me to see [students] use their French, seeing the look of confidence on their face as they use their French and realize how good they really are is priceless,” said Kahle-Ruiz. 

Laura Huck, the RMHS Spanish teacher, co-sponsored Europe trips in 1994 and 2012, as well as three Meadows, trips to Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, MN. Huck shared her favorite trip experience, from Spain, 2012.

“My most favorite memories were being in Málaga, Spain in 2010 for Palm Sunday and in Seville in 2012 in time to see the [pasos] floats being prepared in the different churches before taking to the streets for Holy Week Processions, and the intoxicating scent of Los azahares [orange blossoms] in the patio of the Catedral de Sevilla.”

Although those who planned to attend these trips are dismayed by the loss, canceling was surely in the best interest of attendees’ health and safety. The cancellation of these trips is certainly a loss to students and teachers alike, but many are hopeful for future opportunities.

“Students safety is the District’s highest concern and mine as well. France will always be there and if we keep our students alive and healthy they can always go at another time,” Says Kahle Ruiz. “My hope is that all my students will find a way there at some point, either on their own for a vacation or as study abroad students in college.” 

“These school experiences abroad have been life-changing for our RMHS Spanish, French and Italian students, so much so, that many have chosen to study abroad in college and/or they have returned to Europe on vacation as young adults,” said Huck. “Traveling abroad opens minds and hearts and introduces myriad career opportunities to our bilingual students and those working toward becoming bilingual in French, Italian and Spanish.”