The Octagon

Despite frequent reminders, Latin teacher’s yearly spring Italy trip canceled (slideshow included)

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At morning meetings in the fall, Latin teacher Jane Batarseh often described activities planned for the trip to Italy she had organized with the Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study.

Batarseh partnered with the institute, which was originally given a large grant by Harvard University, because all of the tour leaders are classicists. Open to all students, the travel-study tour was scheduled for March 24-April 1.

But after two months, talk of the trip stopped. The tour had fallen through.

“There are just too many things militating against it,” Batarseh said.

The main reasons were the timing, cost and specific itinerary, according to Batarseh.

Because Batarseh had planned the trip for the newly shortened spring break, it meant it could last only one week.

Traveling to Italy in the summer would allow for a longer trip, but when Batarseh first took students to Italy around 1998, the extremely hot summer weather restricted them from visiting sites.

“It was just horrible,” Batarseh said. “Rome is unrelenting in summer. Romans don’t understand air conditioning – or ice!”

Brisk springtime weather, on the other hand, is perfect for the tour, Batarseh said, as it makes students “perky and engaged.”

However, Batarseh said that more students said they would have gone if the trip was a longer one during the summer.

Junior Luca Procida, who originally wanted to go, agreed, adding that the tour was only a couple weeks before the SAT, and the AP exams would be “on the horizon.”

Timing was also a factor for senior Lily Brown, who said that she didn’t sign up partly because she plans to spend her spring break visiting colleges that have accepted her on their admitted students’ days. Additionally, the price played a large role in her decision, Brown said.

The large flight expenses weren’t offset by substantial time in Italy. Seven days of touring Italy cost $4,000, which caused some students to drop out, according to Batarseh.

Another reason Batarseh said students didn’t sign up was the itinerary, which was key to the texts that AP Latin studies. It was the AP Latin class that motivated Batarseh to organize the tour of Italy.

“I felt they were truly invested in Latin,” Batarseh said. “They were curious, (and) it seemed to me as if they would be attentive (and responsible) when we traveled.”

Batarseh said that she and her AP class thought they could attract other people to the trip, but others, including students in other Latin classes, weren’t interested in the itinerary.

The tour bypassed Northern Italy because the center of culture and wealth was in the southern area of Campania, according to Batarseh, along with all of the sites associated with the poet Virgil, and those sites are central to the AP Latin curriculum.

“It was as hands-on Latin as you could possibly get,” Batarseh said. “But it was a narrow focus, and (people) would’ve felt somewhat shortchanged had they wanted to run around Florence and Venice.”

Initially, history teacher Chris Kuipers and his “small but interested” AP Euro class were going to join the tour. However, that didn’t materialize, and the AP Art History class, which has gone on past trips to Italy, was also very small.

The final nail in the coffin was the $500 non-refundable deposit. No one wanted to deposit $500 without a refund if the trip fell through, so everyone was waiting to see who else would go, according to Batarseh. People thought they could sign up at the last minute but missed the deadline.

Procida said he was worried the tour was going to fall through because not many people were interested. Almost no one put down the deposit, so he didn’t either.

Junior Jack Christian, the sole student to put down a deposit, said that many were unsure of the deadline and who was going. Although there were many students interested in the tour, the shortage of people committed enough to put money down caused the trip to be unsuccessful, according to Christian.

This isn’t the first time a trip to Italy has fallen through; a 2008 trip planned by Batarseh was also canceled. When very few students signed up, the company couldn’t offer low enough prices because there weren’t enough participants for discount rates.

-By Larkin Barnard-Bahn

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