Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls

Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls

By Emilia ‘18 and Valentina ‘20 Perez-Rocha

Our family believed that this summer, we needed to take two months off to travel and learn. Our parents were not only going to let us travel and have a good time – they wanted us to get something out of these two months, something more than just going to museums and seeing beautiful art pieces. It was always our father’s dream that one day we would learn French and other languages. Already speaking two languages fluently (English and Spanish), learning a third would not be too hard and would definitely benefit us in the future. To be completely honest, we were not too happy about this – we just wanted to relax and have fun this summer. But my dad did not give us an option. He sent a few emails and we were set to take a two-week intensive course at the Alliance Française in Montpellier, France.

The first month of traveling flew by fast: first going to Paris, then road-tripping through Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. We got to experience and learn different foods, activities and ways of living throughout Europe. Our two weeks in Montpellier finally approached and we were more than ready to learn. What we were most nervous about was having to take the Tram (the trolley) to the Alliance Française all by ourselves. This goes back to what we were saying about the different ways Europeans live. Our nervousness belittled us because in Europe, the use of public transportation is very common by people of all ages and is part of their daily routines. The nervousness within us was later replaced by comfort once we saw people our age in our class and met a nice teacher.

Our first day of French class passed by and we realized that it wasn’t going to be that bad. We had already befriended an Italian, a Ukrainian and a Norwegian. Once we got back to the apartment, our intrigued parents were waiting for us proudly and we could not stop smiling. We quickly adapted to the new environment and routine. From walking to our French classes to going to the beach or getting a coffee afterwards, it was the perfect French dream.

As the days went on, we learned more and more and felt like we were a part of a new culture. At the end of the two weeks, we were not only able to speak French – we took away something better. We became more independent and open to new challenges. We now think that when given the opportunity to travel, we have to make the most of it and enjoy it while we are at it. There is no better way to prepare for the future than by accepting new challenges and seizing opportunities, no matter how new or intimidating they might be. Throughout these two months of traveling, we learned the importance of stepping out of our comfort zone in order to really understand the purpose of life. Sometimes we look back to before Montpellier, when we would complain to our parents for making us go to class. We laugh now that we know that it was the best time of our summer and an unforgettable experience. We loved it so much that Emilia ‘18 is now thinking about taking a gap year after high school and going to Montpellier again to live there for a year and learn more French.

After Montpellier, we went to Spain to visit our mom’s family and visit more incredible cities such as Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid. We even walked along some parts of the Camino de Santiago. Our summer’s journey quickly came to an end and we were finally back in sunny San Diego. Even though we missed San Diego and our friends, we were a little sad to go back. Going back made us realize how different it is from Europe. Our three months were a perfect break from home and stepping out of our box. We believe that in life, one should take the opportunity to travel and experience the world around us because you never know what you will get out of it.