The thrill of adventure: BMHS students travel abroad

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(From left): Stephanie Alphonso, Rosangela Grado, Elizabeth Carpenter, Dawn Poepping, Liz Santacruz, Allison Monahan, Dasia Hull-Pulliam, Brad Polarmes, a French guide, Joel Polarmes, Michaela Aviles, Matt Lindley and lots of shopping bags are shown in the front of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

BELOIT — Fourteen Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) students had the trip of a lifetime this summer when they went on the art club’s 9-day trip to Amsterdam, London, Paris and Bruges, Belgium, in July. Now they are encouraging others to experience the excitement of travel.

“Everything was just so beautiful. It’s different to be somewhere that’s thousands of years old and gilded in gold. It’s something you just don’t see in America,” said Angelie Tuch-Sanchez.

“I was able to see a lot of Europe a lot of people my age wouldn’t be blessed to see,” said Emmanuel Aguirre. “Thanks to BMHS and its program, I was able to see more of the world and become more open-minded and cultured.”

BMHS art teacher Elizabeth Carpenter said she orchestrated the trips to give more students the opportunity to travel. Although students studying a foreign language had made trips to France and those with the theater department had a Scotland trip, she wanted to make a trip available to all students interested in art, theater or travel.

“I wanted to offer it to everybody,” Carpenter said. “It’s run through the art club, but it’s open to everyone.”

During the trips, students start sightseeing at 8 a.m. and don’t stop until dark. They go on walking tours, museum visits, river cruises and more. She said the trips are a survey allowing new travelers to sample a variety of cultures. It often sparks a desire to travel or study abroad in the future.

Tuch-Sanchez, a student at Viterbo University in LaCrosse who is majoring in fine arts and art education, is hoping to be a chaperone on Carpenter’s next trip. Her trip this summer was her first time abroad and was a breathtaking experience. Seeing The Louvre was the highlight of her trip. She also fondly recalled seeing the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame Cathedral.

She also encountered the occasional heartbreak of seeing those living in poverty.

“You can be in Paris which is so beautiful, turn the corner and see them living in the streets,” she said. “You aren’t expecting to see some of the poverty, such as families sleeping on the streets. It was eye opening.”

Aguirre went on the trip in 2014 as well as 2016. He, like several of the students, stayed on longer during to connect with a BMHS French foreign exchange student, Lilian Bachlete, as well as his German friend.

Aguirre said he enjoyed experiencing the lifestyle of a European teenager. He was surprised how he could walk the streets at night in France without a care in the world. One of his fondest memories was hanging out in a public park, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont which he said was founded by Napoleon.

“I remember the scene of me with my friends there. You could see the skyline of Paris in the night, and it was breathtaking,” he said.

Aguirre said the trip also helped him with his burgeoning interest in photography and fashion.

The French exchange student and his brother introduced Aguirre to their fashion line they have launched called Norest Boys. Bachlete and his brother took Aguirre to manufacturing plants to learn more about production and what it takes to manage a brand. They also took him to spots where he could draw inspiration for his own fashion line.

Liz Santacruz said she liked experiencing the different ways people live and was impressed with public transportation such as the Metro.

“I had never been on a train to get myself from place to place. Experiencing that was a lot of fun,” she said.

Santacruz’s favorite place was Paris where she also stayed on longer because of friend Bachlete. She had such life changing experience she said she is recommending it to her nieces and nephews and going on the next trip as a chaperone.

“He showed us restaurants and a little bit of the night life. It was really fun to know someone there,” she said.

The art club started sponsoring trips to Europe in 2012. The overseas trips are held every other year to help students save up the necessary $3,500 for the all-inclusive trip. With an array of fundraisers planned and payment plans at less than $200 a month, students say going on the trip is a goal within reach.

Aguirre saved up to by being part of the club’s fundraisers and working at a car wash and pizzeria.

“It’s really worth the days you take off to go fundraise and the extra quarters you save in your little piggy bank,” he said.

Tuch-Sanchez said Carpenter made sure everybody who wanted to go could do it. Tuch-Sanchez knew she wanted to go in sophomore year and started working at Zen Sushi to save up funds. She also recalled fundraising at a pancake breakfast, spaghetti dinner and bowling night by selling candy, artwork and brats.

In 2018 the art club will sponsor a 12-day to Rothenburg and Munich, Germany, as well as Venice, Paris, and the Swiss Alps in Lucerne. Students interested in taking the trip or going with their parents can sign up at www.explorica.com/Carpenter-1074.

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