Eagle Valley students study hard for Peru trip | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley students study hard for Peru trip

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Eagle Valley, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyMolly Walker, right, poses for a photo with her host family in Peru in May. Walker was one of 18 Eagle Valley High School students who went on a 15-day trip to Peru to learn about the country and improve their Spanish.
ALL |

EAGLE VALLEY, Colorado – When Ann Carlin, 17, first arrived in Lima, Peru with 17 of her fellow Eagle Valley High School classmates this spring, she wasn’t all that culture-shocked – the group passed a Chili’s Restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a billboard with pop star Hannah Montana on it on their first day in town.

The students then left the big city and headed to Cusco, Peru – that’s when it hit Carlin that they were a long way away from the Vail Valley.

The students, part of the Travel Club at Eagle Valley High School, prepared for their South American trip for nearly a year, said Gretchen Gerleman, a Spanish teacher and the club’s sponsor. She said the preparation is a lot of work, but the students are grateful after it’s all over.

“In the end they really appreciate all the research and studying they’ve done, because they’re educated when they get there,” she said.

The students have to be finished with at least Spanish level two before they can join the travel club. And getting in isn’t easy – students write a three-page paper in Spanish about the importance of learning about other cultures and places. They also must be leaders in their Spanish classes and maintain a C or better grade average.

They also must have the means, or the motivation to raise enough money, for the $3,100 cost of the trip.

The experience is priceless, though, Gerleman said.

“I studied abroad and I wanted these kids to get the same chance,” she said. “For me, travel and learning about other cultures goes hand in hand with learning the language.”

Ashley Wiemer now knows exactly what Gerleman means. She went to Peru and said the experience changed her life and opened her eyes to new things. She saw people living on only what they truly need – something Americans aren’t exactly accustomed to, she said.

“You find out what you really need in life,” Wiemer said. “I know I’ve grown that way – when I go somewhere now, I’m always thinking, ‘Do I really need this?'”

Outside of understanding “a whole lot more” Spanish after traveling to Peru, Wiemer said she also appreciates the time she has with her family more now, too.

Each student on the trip spent five days with a host family. The families didn’t speak English and the students were on their own, fending for themselves to communicate with people from a completely different culture.

Wiemer’s family sat down together for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day. They’re not in a big hurry all the time like Americans, she said.

“They know what time is for family,” she said.

Family culture wasn’t the only thing students got a taste of – they also tried exotic Peruvian delicacies like alpaca and guinea pig, said Jaclyn Taylor, 17. As part of their preparations for the trip, the students researched things like food and history of the country. Many were open to immersing themselves in the culture, and that meant eating the same foods.

“We all tried guinea pig and it was delicious,” Taylor said. “All of us wanted to try it. It looks exactly like a guinea pig when it comes out. They torch it on a stick and it tastes like really delicious, juicy chicken.”

Many of the students realized 15 days in a country wasn’t going to teach them everything, but they left feeling like they learned a lot, Gerleman said.

Gerleman hasn’t decided where next year’s travel club will travel, but she knows it will be a Spanish-speaking country and that many students will likely apply for the select amount of spots available for the trip.

“The kids get really excited about it,” she said. “(The trip) opens their eyes to the rest of the world.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com