Student Trip to Europe: Part 1

Student Trip to Europe: Part 1

Over the summer, I was given an amazing opportunity by EF Tours to take a group of my students to Switzerland and Italy. It was the most incredible, exhausting, interesting, sight-seeing packed 10 days of my life.

Most of my students had never been outside the US before, and 3 of them had never traveled on an airplane. They were able to experience a lot of firsts over the course of our trip and it was life-changing, for not only them but for myself as well. I would do this trip a million times over just to see the joy and amazement in their eyes at seeing the world for perhaps the first time.

Here’s a short 5-minute video that sums up the first part of our trip, which started in Switzerland:

But hey let’s go back to Day 1 and start from the beginning…

Day 1:

After a 15 hour overnight trip from Raleigh to Zürich, we met up with our EF Tour Director (who was awesome by the way). He introduced us to the other 3 groups that would be part of our tour and we headed to our bus. Before looking at pics…you should know I warned my students that if they didn’t sleep on the plane, they would be exhausted the next day…

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Waiting at RDU
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My group of guys
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Getting ready to take off
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Ms. Lovato and I

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Beautiful francs
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We arrived safely in Switzerland
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Loaded up on the bus, ready for our day!
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3 minutes after loading the bus…
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Results of no sleep LOL

Our bus transported us from Zürich to Lucerne, where we started our day off strong with a walking tour. We began at the Lion Monument and followed it by walking across Chapel Bridge over Lake Lucerne. We also had the opportunity to visit the Lucerne Jesuit Church. This was the first European church that my students had been in — and it was breathtaking. They sat in silence in the pews for 2-3 minutes and took in their surroundings. It was a moment I won’t forget.

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Lion Monument
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Most of the group in front of Lion Monument
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Entering Chapel Bridge over Lake Lucerne
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Lucerne Jesuit Church
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View of Old Town
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All the students together
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Of course, we had to get gelato!
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Lucerne had so many buildings with incredible artwork on the structures

After some free time to explore and of course get gelato, it was time to head to our hotel. Located halfway up the mountain, it required us to take an old wooden train to get there. This train ride was easily one of the best parts and views of the trip. As we embarked up Mount Rigi above the clouds in Lucerne, we had a clear view of the Swiss Alps and the lake…oh my was it breathtaking.

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Switzerland flag on the rock

Hotel Riga Kaltbad was completely unexpected. Ms. Lovato and I had a room with a balcony where we could see miles and miles of Alps – some even had snow on the peaks. It was so peaceful and quiet up there on the mountain… minus the hundreds of cowbells echoing from the farms surrounding us. The hotel had no air condition, but we were able to keep the balcony door and window open to allow the cool mountain air in throughout the night.

(Side note: we looked up the regular cost of a room for a night…$600. EF really set us up with a wonderful place!! Thanks EF)

After dinner with the group at the hotel, everyone went to their assigned rooms. I had high hopes that they would go right to sleep after traveling for almost 48 hours straight. Lovato and I performed room checks, and then it was off to sleep for us.

Day 2:

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The sunrise from our balcony

Up bright and early for breakfast at 7:15…to the student’s surprise consisted mostly of bread, yogurt, bread, croissants, and more bread. We boarded the ol’ wooden train and headed to the top of Mount Rigi to explore. Unfortunately, we ran into a dense fog and were unable to see much of anything. We were given some free time to hike up to the peak. There was a lot of huffing and puffing happening on the way to the top due to the extreme altitude.

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Your trusty group leader & chaperone 😀
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Fog at Mt. Rigi
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Train station at the top of Mt. Rigi
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Day 2 Train Down the mountain
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Overview of Lake Lucerne from the train

Afterwards, we took the train back down the mountain for more awesome views. Instead of traveling by bus to downtown Lucerne, we took an hour boat cruise across Lake Lucerne. Boating across the lake was one of the highlights of the trip, as we could see all around us at the incredible scenery.

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Boat cruise to the city
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Swiss Flag
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Beautiful Park Hotel Vitznau on the mountainside

After arriving in Lucerne, we were given the entire day to adventure. Some of the group joined me at Monera for lunch — a self-service buffet…which you’ll see proof in the pic below that their food was AMAZING.

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Delicious dessert after lunch at Monera

Of course, we had to do the typical touristy stuff, like buying swiss army knives and keychain souvenirs. But then we got down to the real adventuring and my most favorite…castles!! Musegg Castle Wall caught my eye the first day we were in Lucerne. I mentally put it on my “I must climb this” bucket list. And oh wow, am I glad that we did. You could see the entire city from atop of the guard tower. It was so amazing, that we set out to find the other students to bring them back up to the top (which was like 10000 more steps, but totally worth it).

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Stairs at Musegg Wall
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Looking out over the city
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Downtown Lucerne in the background
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Got Milk?
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We took advantage of every water fountain we passed

After an eventful day in the city, we had a nice dinner back at our hotel. Fortunately, we were done with dinner early enough for the students to have the evening to themselves. A couple of students and I chose to go hiking…because Swiss Alps…duh!

We left about an hour before the sun was to set and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing. We hiked the Räb trail for 3 miles, all while getting to see farms, Lake Lucerne from a distant, and lots and lots of cows up close.

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View from our hike

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Hattie hiking the Swiss Alps
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After a long 3 mile hike through the Swiss Alps
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Perfect sunset over the mountains

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetWe ended the night at a small Catholic church next to our hotel. Inside this church, we found a guest book. Names and prayers were written in the leather bound book dating back 10+ years. Prayers were in every language, some of them I’ve never even seen before. The students and I each sat in this deserted church, 10:30 at night, writing prayers and blessings in the book by candlelight. While I don’t remember the name of the church, nor am I Catholic…I was overwhelmed that night, sitting there thinking of all the blessings in my life and writing them down for others to read in years to come. This memory is one that I have come to treasure the most from our short time in Switzerland, as I am grateful each and every day to have had the opportunity to experience these things with my students…

Stay tuned for our next 8 days in later posts! Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a beat 😉 Thanks so much for reading & I hope you enjoyed it as I much as I enjoyed reminiscing on all of our wonderful times.

XOXO

Summer Rae

P.S. Thanks to my awesome students for letting me annoy them with my GoPro in their faces; giving me enough footage to make a short film out of. I excluded lots and lots of film because hello, they’re teenagers (in other words, they roll their eyes and give me ugly faces more times than not). But I love them anyways. Thanks to Jack G. for filming at times so I could be in some of the videos too! 

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