Not every teenager gets the opportunity to experience the world and its many different cultures, but students from Holy Rosary High School (HRHS) have over the years through the school’s travel club.
The club has seen off many students over the 20 years that it’s been active, for annual excursions to places in Europe, Asia and beyond, where they become immersed in other cultures and learn a little about themselves along the way.
“It’s not a holiday,” said Richard Lucas, teacher and chief educator for HRHS. “It’s an educational trip.”
But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a ton of fun, too.
“I’ve travelled with them on and off since probably 1999,” said Lucas. “I like to teach. I’ve got a sincere love of history and of culture. So it thrills me when I take kids to a place that we’ve studied about, that they’ve heard a little about or maybe they’ve heard nothing about it. And then teach them, this is where it happened.”
He recalls a previous trip to Italy, where the group visited a Canadian grave site and performed a flag laying ceremony. An excursion to Greece got students seeing the Parthenon first-hand and the Areopagus, the hill where St. Paul taught the Athenians.
These are some of the experiences added to travel club trips that make things not only educative but extra special.
“It’s not just a site, it’s not just a fun a experience, but it’s got that extra layer of meaning,” said Lucas.
The travel club’s trip to Japan next year will be no different. “Travelling with your friends makes experiences for a lifetime,” said Lucas, which is bound to be the clincher for many students; however, he also added that the trip will be a cultural experience that will teach kids a lot of life lessons as well.
“Going to Japan, Caucasian kids from Western Canada, we’re a minority there,” he said. “So just, what is it like to be a minority? For a lot of kids they don’t know. So they’re going to learn that first hand.”
Planned by Education First (EF), who have arranged a travel package for the students which covers everything from plane tickets to room and board, the entire trip will cost students approximately $43,000, which covers nine days, including travel. But Lucas thinks it’s definitely worth it.
“(Japan is) typically the most expensive trip we have to take,” he said. “But there seemed to be a fair bit of demand for it (this year).”
This Easter, the group will travel on the main island, from Tokyo down to Hiroshima, which will take them through two-thirds of the entire island. On the way, they’ll be hitting cities and stopping in smaller places in between to take in a range of rural and urban atmospheres.
“They’ll get a really good slice of Japanese culture and a mixture of the history and the now,” said Lucas.
One highlight will be a trip to Niijima, an island shrine with an old Japan feel, set in a tropical area that has been more or less undisturbed. And being that the students come from a Catholic school, they will also be joining in a Japanese Easter mass at a cathedral in Tokyo.
But that special element that’s present in all travel club trips will be evident when they stop in Hiroshima, where they will hold a prayer service at the Atomic Bomb Dome.
“This is where one of the only two atomic bombs ever used was dropped,” said Lucas. “What did we learn from it? It’s a very sobering, yet very enlightening place to go.”
On the other side of things, the group will also be getting time for true leisure activities, like a baseball game, which Lucas said is quite different from what we know in Canada.
“It’s very enthusiastic, it’s a lot of fun and the food is very exotic but very cool, too,” he said.
And of course, they will be trying their hand at a true Japanese pastime.
“We’re going to do some karaoke,” said Lucas. “I mean, if you’re going to do karaoke, why not do it in Japan?”
All in all, the travel club only has nine days to experience the entire country, so Lucas is working hard to make it all worth it.
“We like to get our kids up early and run them pretty hard through the day, so that they see as much as possible,” he said. “I mean, we’re only there for a snapshot. So we’re going to get the best snapshot possible.”