On Tuesday, June 14, several Marian students and teachers arrived at Eppley Air field to embark on their European Summer. After two years of COVID-19 closures and protocols, a trip to France and Spain was exactly what these excited travelers needed. Martha Engel, one of the many excited travelers had been counting down the days until she boarded the 10-hour flight and landed in “The City of Love.”
As most first time European travelers are, Engel was “unsure” of what to expect. “I wasn’t expecting to frolic around Europe, but I was definitely really excited to experience a new culture.” However, the moment she disembarked the plane, Engel felt all her pretrip worries disappear. “All of my anxiety was gone. As soon as I got there, I was like I’m here now. There’s nothing to worry about.”
For most travelers, landing at their destination is only the beginning of worries as the trip has yet to truly begin, but for Engel, there wasn’t a better time to let go of her anxiety than leaving the plane and surrendering herself to the experiences that were to come.
The trip was intensive. As soon as the students and teachers had the chance to drop luggage off at their hotel, they were already behind schedule. Regardless of jet lag or hunger or even initial homesickness, the travelers jumped right into an immersive experience.
“I was tired, but I just couldn’t help but love the experience,” Engel said. “I loved going fast and feeling busy because I was seeing so many things that I had learned about.”
The trip was especially immersive and educational for Engel because she had taken AP European History the previous school year. “Taking AP Euro really prepared me for all the sightseeing. It also made it that much more fun to see a historical sight and know the exact history behind it.”
While the first few days were spent exploring from sunrise to sunset, Engel couldn’t help fixate on one of the very first stops of the trip, Sainte-Chapelle.
“We were all so tired and hot, but it was really cold there. We walked up this spiral staircase into the most amazing chapel I had ever seen. That stuck out to me the rest of the trip and showed me how amazing the next few days were going to be.”
Paris, as with any big city, came with lots of pivoting when things didn’t quite turn out the way one might expect. The week that the Marian girls and teachers were in Paris was one of the hottest weeks on record for Paris. Beyond that, girls had to tackle subway routes and logged thousands of steps
a day. However, for Engel, those were only the little things.
“Looking back on the trip I don’t remember it as being super hot. You always remember the good things.”
Engel remembers her days in Paris passing by in a blur. She was a weary traveler, but the endless new experiences that came her way were unforgettable. However, as the group packed up to head south towards Avignon, there was a bump in the road.
Because of the extreme temperatures and exhaustion of international traveling, a couple of Marian students experienced serve heat exhaustion and dehyradtion. One student and two chaperones had to stay in Paris while the rest of the group continued to Avignon. Though Engel was worried for her classmate’s well-being, she was “glad that there were people taking care of her.”
“If anything, it made me wake up and be more aware of the amount of water I was or wasn’t drinking. I also really tried to listen to the chaperones as I’m sure they were stressed and needed us to cooperate.” Luckily, the group was able to reunite just a day later and enjoy their trip together.
Engel remembers Avignon for its history and beauty. It was the opposite of Paris; quiet, small, slower-paced.
“I really liked just being able to walk around the city. We walked around the river and picked lavender from the lavender fields. It was really beautiful.”
As the trip was coming to an end, Engel’s second-leg of the trip was only
beginning. Engel has family that lives in a small rural town outside of Nîmes, France. She spent about a day and a half with the group in Barcelona and then solo traveled with full permission of trip chaperones and her parents to visit her aunt and uncle at their own residence.
“I took a train all by myself, completely alone. I was really only anxious about missing my stop, but I listened closely when each stop was called and tracked the route on my phone. I made it successfully and reunited with my uncle Tom.”
Spending time with her family was a nice change of pace for Engel. She got to experience living in France and not just sight-seeing. Beyond that, she got to share some of her favorite experiences with her immediate family who flew over to vacation with the rest of her family.
“It was just so peaceful. It was amazing really. Engel’s trip eventually came to a close as she flew back to the United States with her family and geared up for what the rest of the summer was to bring. Beyond long flights and new cuisine, beyond extreme heat and solo travel, Engel said she would do it all again if she had the chance.
“I will never have the same trip again, but if I could do it all over without changing anything, I would be on a plane tomorrow.”