This summer, Villa Maria Academy High School students boarded a jet for Rome, Italy, embarking on a European journey that would give life, color and flavor to their studies.
Led by Sister Regina J. Ryan, I.H.M, principal of the Malvern Catholic girls’ college preparatory school, the group of 26 current students and one graduate explored areas of ancient Rome, the lakes and mountains of Switzerland and the sights of Paris.
Trained guides held “classes” on the go that focused on the history and culture of Rome, Assisi, Florence, Pisa, the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Jungfrau, Lausanne and Paris, and Versailles.
“Understanding cultures is of vital importance because we live in a global society,” Sister Regina said. “Travel and immersion in other cultures help us see life with a different lens. Our students visited three countries with different languages, geography, food and customs and learned the uniqueness of each.
“Their history, theology, physics and art studies came alive as we toured many places that they had studied or will study.”
One of the highlights was attending Mass celebrated by Pope Francis. As one student said, “When the Alleluia was sung, I had chills. It was beautiful to listen to the crowd, despite the language barrier, sing together … it made us realize that everyone in the world has the same friend — God!”
The group then traveled to Switzerland and the Jungfrau, taking the cog wheel railway to the mountain peak.
The next stop was Paris. According to 11th grader Julie Dobson, “Versailles was one of the most anticipated sites. It was clear as soon as we saw its golden gates why the rest of France was so poor during the French Revolution. As we walked through each room and experienced how Louis XIV and XVI lived, the French Revolution came alive.”
And while the students enjoyed a trip that was rich in history, they were encouraged to experience the cities and the regions as they are today. They visited restaurants, local markets and open-air plazas teaming with people. They even danced in the streets as Parisians celebrated Fete de la Musique, a summer solstice festival.
When Villa Maria students return to class in the fall, their European experience will provide a strong reference point as they continue their studies in the areas of religion, art and history.