Mount Abe travel club broadens horizons, plans third international trip

BRISTOL — For April vacation this year 35 Mount Abraham Union High School students and six chaperones will exchange the Green Mountains of Vermont for the green hills and highlands of Ireland and Scotland.
This is the third international trip sponsored by the newly reconstituted Mt. Abe Travel Club, advised by social studies teacher Jess Little and assistant principal Justin Bouvier. Last year students traveled to Belize and in 2016 toured five European countries.
Passports, flights, hotels in unfamiliar surroundings: Travel abroad can feel like an overwhelming prospect, especially for first-time students and the families watching them go.
Parents are often relieved to discover that the club works with EF Education Tours, a company specializing in student travel logistics, including meals and sightseeing.
“My parents did have some safety concerns, at first,” said Sarah Levigne, a ninth-grader who went to Belize this past year. “But I always felt safe. EF is a good company.”
Senior Carley Sherwin, who’s making her third trip with the club, said her parents have adjusted over the years.
“It’s a little bit about ‘growing up’ for parents, too,” Sherwin said. “It’s not easy for them to let go.”
Sherwin’s mother, Shawna Sherwin, is by now a veteran of “letting go.” Carley’s older sister, Bailey, visited the Dominican Republic with her high school Spanish class, New Zealand with a college group, and is now studying abroad in Denmark, where Carley plans to visit her, solo, later this spring.
Traveling makes kids braver, their mother said. They become more confident. As their horizons are expanded students are starting to look for colleges that offer study-abroad programs.
The Sherwins, who organize Bristol’s annual Three Day Stampede Toward the Cure for Cystic Fibrosis, also operate indoor yard sales in the winter to benefit the travel club.
Their commitment to fundraising, which includes projects with Bristol’s Bobcat Cafe and Brewery and Burlington’s Dan’s Chocolates, attracts a wider variety of students to the club. And that, Carley Sherwin said, has been one of its greatest benefits — she’s forged a number of close friendships during her travels.
Experiencing different cultures and languages has also been “eye-opening,” she said.
Senior Gillianne Ross agreed.
“You get a sense of how other people see Americans. It gives you a better world perspective and fosters global citizenship,” Ross said, adding with amusement that most people she encountered on their European trip had no idea where Vermont was.
Junior Isaiah DiNapoli focused on his European travel experience for a college application essay.
“The bonds that were formed during this amazing week between a mismatched group of teenagers have grown more and more with every passing day,” he wrote. “My trip to Europe changed the way I view myself, others, and even the world.”
Five-town residents interested in seeing student travel updates are invited to follow the club’s Facebook page. It’s unlikely, however, that they’ll hear any wild tales involving one of Ireland or Scotland’s world-famous whiskeys.
Students who would like to purchase alcohol as a souvenir for their parents will have to consult with their adult chaperones and follow strict guidelines, Little explained at the March 12 club meeting.
“And we will not be doing any ‘free tastings.’ ”
Christopher Ross is at [email protected].

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