Students eager for trip to France

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— In two weeks, a handful of Steamboat Springs students will throw themselves into a world of sidewalk cafes, art masterpieces and historic structures.

On April 17, 24 Steamboat Springs seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders will board an American Airlines flight bound for Paris, France, where the students will begin a 10-day tour of France and northern Spain. Four adults will accompany the students.

All of the students are currently enrolled in French classes at either Steamboat Springs Middle School or Steamboat Springs High School. The trip is not school-sponsored.

Middle school French teacher Lisa Ruff organized the trip, the sixth French excursion she has organized since 1993.

"It's a great experience for these kids," said Ruff, who first traveled to France when she was 20. "It's not about seeing the Eiffel Tower; it's about seeing the kids react to that eye-opening experience of seeing the culture."

April 17 can't come quick enough for most of the students.

"It's going to be so much fun," eighth-grader Caitlin Van Patten said. "To be able to understand a different language and culture is really cool. I'm even excited about the plane ride."

The trip will be led by EF Tours, and an EF Tours guide will be with the group throughout, Ruff said.

The students' comprehension of the French language is still at a novice level, but Ruff is encouraging them to speak French as often as possible and to do their best to blend in with the French culture.

"We have to respect the French culture," eighth-grader Sara Handing said.

"They'll understand what's being said to them, but they'll take in more than they're able to produce," Ruff said. "They'll do really well. They're not afraid to try."

The trip will cost students about $2,000 apiece, a price that includes everything from transportation to accommodations to spending money. Many of the kids raised at least half of the trip cost on their own through fund-raisers, babysitting, pet sitting or other after-school jobs.

"We've worked so hard to get here," eighth-grader Lauren Letson said.

World conflict has discouraged many people around the world from traveling, but Ruff said the danger is minimal, particularly when it comes to France.

"I haven't prepared these kids any differently than any other group I've taken," Ruff said. "I have always told kids to be wary and to be careful. The kids learn to be a little bit more independent and a little bit safer when traveling."

Last week, Ruff held a mandatory meeting with the parents of all 24 students. Ruff gave parents the opportunity to back out of the trip, but no one did.

"It's very, very safe," she said.

"My mom's a travel agent," eighth-grader Max Pensack said. "She's not really worried about the whole deal in the Middle East. She's pretty confident we'll have a good time and be safe."

"My mom's nervous but excited," Cami Simms said.

Besides, the kids have other things to worry about:

"It's going to be so scary to talk to someone who actually understands French," Katie Mills said.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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