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    • Hopkins students gather with their Italian pen pals in Amalfi.

    • Hopkins students pose for a selfie with French host students.

Hopkins Connects With European Sister Schools

Claire Billings ’25 Assistant News Editor
This year, Hopkins introduced the spring break trips to Italy for the first time in over three years. In addition to visiting important historical landmarks, students also had the opportunity to connect with French and Italian students at Hopkins’ sister schools. 
 
Italian teacher Teresa Picarazzi, who led the Italy trip alongside Spanish teacher Susan Bennitt and Head of School Matt Glendinning, said she “started planning [the] trip last spring.” For Picarazzi, highlights of the trip included visits to historic sites in Rome such as the Colosseum and Forum, as well as Glendinning’s tour of his favorite monument, the Pantheon. After Rome, the group traveled south to Sorrento, where they visited a mozzarella farm and learned to make pizza. A scenic and precarious bus trip along the southern coast of Italy brought the group to their last stop, New Haven’s sister city, Amalfi. 

In Amalfi, Picarazzi said that students on the trip enjoyed dinner with their Italian pen pals at a local Amalfi restaurant and attended classes together at Hopkins’ sister school Liceo Marini-Gioia. Meeting Italian students was “one of the highlights of Italy” for Italian student MaryKate Myott ’24. “I have been making videos and messaging my pen pal for the past three years, so it was really exciting to finally meet in person,” said Myott. Latin 3 student Josie Lipcan ’25 added, “I think [the pen pals] are people I’ll stay in contact with.” For Picarazzi, “seeing Hopkins students spend time with their Italian pen pals in Amalfi” was “priceless.” Bennitt agreed, adding “In experiential learning, creating the bonds of friendship is one of the cornerstones to intercultural competence and global citizenship.”

In France, students traveled through southern cities Marseille, Arles, Nîmes and Avignon, according to French teacher and trip organizer Sarah du Plessis. For du Plessis, some highlights were “the hospital in Arles where Van Gogh was after he cut his off ear,” as well as historical Roman sites including an aqueduct and amphitheater. The Hopkins French cohort also met students attending a French high school, Lycée Louis Pasteur, and even stayed with host families for two nights while in Avignon. French 3 student Yuki Heeger ’25 said that while “it was awkward at first, I grew to really like [my host student] and I found that we had a lot in common.” Heeger added, “It was also really interesting to see how different their school was from ours.” French teacher and trip organizer Sarah du Plessis said that the students on the France trip wished they could spend more time with their host families, after “they actually got surprisingly close in that little bit of time.” 

Immersion in the French language was a significant goal of the trip. Chinese 3 student Asher Joseph ’25 said, “I was rather hesitant to go on this trip because I don’t speak French, but I’m very glad that I went because I made friends that I don’t think I would have met if I hadn’t gone.” Du Plessis said, “We did every single thing in French…we had one Spanish student and two Chinese students, and, by the end of the trip, they were speaking French.” This language immersion proved strenuous yet rewarding for participants. French 3 student Sarah Galvani-Townsend ’25 said that while she  “got tired from having to carry a conversation in my not-native language for two hours every evening with my host family,” the experience  “made my French, and especially my accent, better.”

Participants on the trips also enjoyed bonding with their fellow Hopkins students. Myott said that, in addition to the Italian friends she made, she also “became friends with some Hopkins students that [she] didn’t know before.” Even Glendinning shared that the trip was helpful as he’s “still getting to know everyone.” After the trip Glendinning said, “I feel just a bit more connected with a group of students and several teachers.”
Glendinning noted that school trips are “something I have a lot of passion for and experience with,” and he “looks forward to working with our faculty to elevate our travel program even further in the future.” Picarazzi also expressed enthusiasm for future trips: “I think it’s super important for our students to experience firsthand a different culture and to put into practice the language they are studying, to share experiences, and to celebrate our similarities and differences.”
 
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