To trip or not to trip

8th grade heads to D.C., other excursions on hiatus


Photo courtesy of Brightspark

MONUMENTAL Greenhills has not had a Washington D.C. trip in three years. “The Washington D.C. trip has been one of my favorite memories while at Greenhills. It created inseparable bonds between me and my classmates that would last throughout high school,” said Leo Applegate ‘23.

Arjun Prabhakar '23, Associate Editor, Online

With constantly changing COVID guidelines and uncertainties around the world, some of the Greenhills trips are returning after pandemic hiatuses. 

With more and more Americans getting vaccinated across the nation travel guidelines have easened up, the administration on par with Spanish teacher Kevin Olson and history teacher and grade leader Kate Vane have decided that it is safe enough for the middle school Washington D.C. trip to happen. 

However, with constantly changing conditions in foreign countries, and travel bans and guidelines being changed on a daily basis, the administration has decided that it is currently unsafe for the students to go out of the country for a school trip. 

During the summer, upper school students are given the opportunity to travel to foreign countries with their language teachers and family members. Students taking Spanish usually go to Cuba or Spain, French students to France, Mandarin students to China, and Latin students to Greece. 

“The language trips allow students to grow as a language learner and get a real sense of why they are learning the language,” said Olson. “You’re not learning it because some adult wants you to learn it. You’re not learning it because it’s going to get you into college. You’re not learning it for your GPA. You’re learning it because you are going to be able to communicate with somebody, a real person, and that feels really good.”

The language trips allow the students to go to different countries and try out their language skills trying to speak with the local people. It gives the students a real world experience and an experience of a lifetime.

“The experience is a huge boost towards your self esteem that makes you feel like you have a purpose in these classes. It has a real world purpose,” said Olson. 

As well as learning the purpose of learning their language, students also experience many moments that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

“One of my favorite memories from past language trips was when we took dancing classes one night,” said Olson. “There were Costa Rican dancers guiding us and everyone was letting loose and stepping out of their comfort zone. I think a huge part of traveling is that you need to take some risks and do things you wouldn’t normally do. You end up really enjoying these moments and it becomes a very memorable part of a trip.”

Unfortunately, students have not been able to experience special moments such as this in almost 3 years.

“With the everchanging COVID-19 cases and new variants, there are just too many risks and possible problems to plan a foreign trip in these uncertain times,” said Latin teacher Jeffrey Allen.

With no language trips in the past three years, many students have been unable to apply their language skills in a real world scenario and experience the culture they learn about first hand. As many students have graduated from Greenhills in the past three years  they have been stripped from this experience, and may never be able to take a trip out of the country with their peers. 

“It’s unfortunate that many students have and may not be able to experience speaking Spanish in a foreign country,” said Olson. “For some students, as well as myself, the language trips have been life changing. I often warn people traveling to Spanish speaking countries because, if you are like me, you’ll come back and end up wanting to become a Spanish teacher. It’s just that much fun.” 

Although the language trips will not happen this year, the Washington, D.C. trip will happen for 8th graders. 

“As of right now the trip is a go. As we know from this pandemic anything could happen, but we are feeling confident that this one will go forward” said Vane. 

Similarly to the language trips, students have many experiences that they remember forever and ones that might even influence their careers.

“Some of the best moments I have had over the years was when we met multiple senators,” said Vane. “The students loved it and many found the meeting to be very inspirational. It is a new experience for students to run into politicians doing their work in real time, and to meet people that they may have seen on TV or read about, like Ted Cruz.” 

The reason the Washington, D.C. trips will happen while the language trips are canceled is due to the safety of the students.

“For the D.C. trips, students will board a bus and ride down to D.C. We have to follow the orders from the tour company, Brightspark. Currently, they are requiring us to wear masks on the buses and any indoor spaces, except for when students are in their hotel rooms. We will ensure all students are wearing masks at all times and have been tested prior to going on the trips. Students will share hotel rooms for a week and enjoy the capital,” said Vane.

Since the trip will be made in a bus, and is in the United States, the faculty felt that there was no major risk for the students to go. There is no chance for them to get locked out of Michigan, even if something were to occur they would be able to make it back home safely.  

“For the foreign language trips, there are too many risks such as being stranded in a foreign country and students must board an airplane to travel to the country, exposing them to many more people,” said Allen.  

When asked about the return of high school trips, Dean of Students Tom Ward seemed optimistic about them.

“We are hopeful that we can return to our normal upper school class trips in the fall. Freshmen take a trip up to Torch Lake where students stay in cabins and participate in a variety of team building activities, sophomores go on an overnight camping trip, juniors go on a service trip to Detroit, and seniors go on a two day trip to Chicago.

By making masks optional, and bringing back old school traditions and school trips, the school seems to be returning back to normal, and hopefully in the near future we will also be able to bring back our international language trips.