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Mountain Echo

Online newspaper of Altoona Area High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania
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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Bonjour France au revoir Altoona

Skomra organizes summer learning experience
Courtesy of Veronica Skomra
Living it up in Nice! Students spent the evening catching a glimpse of the sunset along the French Riviera.

Altoona Area School District foreign language students got the opportunity of a lifetime this summer. Fifteen students who took French II, III and AP along with French teacher Veronica Skomra and chaperone Dawn Igoe traveled to France for a total of ten activity packed days.

“It’s always been about the true authentic experience for me. We are not just learning French to learn French; we can actually use what we learned when we travel. The students need to understand that there’s a world beyond Altoona,” Skomra said.

In classes, students practice French all year but the stakes are higher when using it in the real world.

“There were times when my students had to speak French, especially when placing an order somewhere. For example, if they were walking into a bakery, they had to order in French. They had to use their language skills they’ve acquired during French class,” Skomra said.

Each day had an itinerary and one of the 10 days was spent admiring the view from the second to the top floor of the Eiffel Tower.

“My favorite part of the trip was seeing the Eiffel Tower. Since I was little, I had always wanted to go to France, especially to Paris. I took French because of that and I was lucky enough to go on the trip and fulfill a dream I had,” senior Marcella Parker said.

The group was able to cross the historic bridge of Pont d’Avignon and took some photos in the lavender fields located in front of the famous bridge.

They spent a sunny day swimming in the ancient aqueduct, Pont du Gard. They then explored the city of Aix-en-Provence in the evening.

“There was a rock beach full of all rocks. It hurt to walk on unless you had beach shoes on. We also got to see caves there,” Skomra said.

They went to the Cannes (soft sunny beach). They walked along its famous seaside promenade, La Croisette.

“The hot, sunny beaches down there were amazing. The sounds were amazing, too, because you had the raging waves. It was the first time I had ever seen raging waves in the South,” Skomra said.

They traveled from Cannes to Nice and spent the night in a hotel.

“The following morning, we traveled by motorcoach to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a unique walled city full of cobbled streets and many artisan shops,” Skomra said.

The same evening they enjoyed the Fête de la Musique. (An annual celebration of music where citizens are allowed and encouraged to play music in their neighborhoods, public places and parks.)

“We started a dance circle in the town section of Nice, France. There was a DJ playing in the middle of the street, which you don’t see unless it is the La Fête de la Musique. People gathered around us while we danced to one of GIMS songs,” Skomra said.

On the last day in France, they traveled by TER train to Monaco. That afternoon, everyone enjoyed climbing the stairs to the top of the cliff in Nice to catch a picturesque view of the French Riviera.

“Since I like history, I enjoyed getting to actually see all those things I learned about in my history classes in person. My favorite parts of the trip were probably Monaco and Nice,” senior Camryn MacAlarney said. “I like F1 racing, so it was super cool to actually be in Monaco and see where the track is and everything. Nice was a really beautiful city and I loved the general feel of it,”

Skomra and the students fundraised for two and a half years to pay for the trip. They sold chocolate bars, Marianna’s hoagies, gourmet dips, etc. to fundraise. The trip cost for each student was an all-inclusive $4,600 minus the cost of lunch and souvenirs.

“I fundraised a lot, but I’m lucky that my parents were able to help me out with the rest of the cost. Fundraising definitely was a big part of paying for the trip,” senior Ava Rokosky said.

“I fundraised for about a year and a half before the trip started and fundraised about half of how much the total trip cost. My family members also chipped in to pay for the remaining amount,” Parker said.

Students were able to get real-world cultural and language experience while in France.

“The trip was incredible. The days were long, but we accomplished so much in just 10 days. The things I got to experience were amazing, and I recommend that anyone who gets the chance should try to visit,” Parker said.

“I thought it would be a really good experience to see the world. I’ve never been to another country before, so I thought that would be fun. Everyone walked places or rode a bike or a motorcycle. That’s very different from here because we don’t have a lot of sidewalks,” senior Emeline Feathers said.

Trip Itinerary
10 Days in France

Day 1: Pittsburgh - Paris - Wednesday 14 & Day 2: Paris - Thursday 15 

They took a flight on June 14 from the Pittsburgh International Airport and flew through the night to France. They spent the day exploring Paris. They toured the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. They walked through the Quartier Latin and saw the Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon, Sorbonne University and Eglise St-Sulpice.

Day 3: Paris - Friday 16

On the third day, they spent their day admiring the view from the second to the top floor of the Eiffel Tower, followed by going to Place du Trocadero and having a stroll through the beautifully landscaped Champ de Mars. Then, they had a guided tour of the Musee du Louvre. They got to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. 

Day 4: Paris - Versailles - Paris - Saturday 17

On the fourth day, they boarded the RER (train) and rode to Versailles. When they got there, they were able to explore the Gardens of Château de Versailles. 

Day 5: Paris - Avignon - Sunday 18

On the fifth day, they had a guided visit to Musée d'Orsay. They took the TGV high-speed train to Avignon and there they were able to check into another hotel and then go out and explore Avignon. 

Day 6: Avignon - Pont Du Gard-Aix-En-Provence - Monday 19

On the sixth day, they boarded the motor coach and traveled to Pont du Gard. They then explored around there, and they were able to explore the city of Aix-en-Provence. 

Day 7: Aix-En-Provence-Cannes-Nice - Tuesday 20 

On the seventh day, they boarded a motor coach to Cannes. They walked along its famous seaside promenade, La Croisette.

Day 8: Saint-Paul-De-Vence- Nice - Wednesday 21 

On the eighth day, they boarded the motor coach and traveled to Nice, then took time to explore the charming village of Saint Paul De Vence. They boarded the motor coach and continued to Nice, the heart of the Côte d'Azur. They were able to spend some time at the La Fête de la Musique. (An annual celebration of music where citizens are allowed and encouraged to play music in their neighborhoods, public places and parks.)

Day 9: Nice - Monaco - Nice Thursday 22

On their ninth day, they took the TER train to the Principality of Monaco, saw the Changing of the Guard in front of the Prince's Palace, and returned by train to go back to Nice where they were able to enjoy time in Nice’s centerpiece, Place Masséna. Then finished it off with a walk along Promenade des Anglais. 

Day 10: Nice - Pittsburgh Friday 23 + Saturday 24 

On the tenth day, their flight was canceled coming home, but they were able to get another flight that flew to Italy and then came to Pittsburgh. They did end up coming home a day later than what they expected.  

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About the Contributor
Abigail Rudy, Reporter
Hi. My name is Abigail Rudy. I am a junior. This is my second year writing for Mountain Echo. I enjoy reading and walking my dogs. I have four dogs and two cats. I love nature and being outdoors. I am looking forward to writing more stories this year for people to read.

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