International experiences

WHS students visit the 'City of Lights'

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When asked to describe his favorite aspect of Paris, Craig Grable is at a loss for words.

“It’s hard to describe,” the Washougal High School French teacher said. “There’s just a different atmosphere and culture that I really enjoy.”

He had the opportunity to share that love of culture with four students in his French class this summer when they visited the famous “City of Lights.”

They are seniors Kaycee Zieman and Alex Carstens, sophomore Robby Wayper and recent graduate Jenni Ladwig.

It was the first time traveling to France for all of them, and an experience not one of them will forget.

While in Paris, the group visited several popular tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Parc de la Villette (a museum of science and industry, the Montparnasse Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Arch of Triumph and The Louvre art museum. The group also spent time exploring the city at their own pace.

“I chose to do an in-depth Paris tour because you get much more free time that way,” Grable said. “We could visit places and not have to rush around so much.”

“I loved seeing the catacombs,” Zieman said. “I really had the most fun there. I saw some really neat, interesting things.”

Added Carstens, “The days with the most memories were our free days. We went to a museum of science and industry. I also enjoyed going to the Notre Dame Cathedral and putting my feet on Point Zero.”

Point Zero, in front of the cathedral, is the geographic center of Paris, from which all distances in France were traditionally measured.

“It is said that if you stand on this spot you are destined to return to Paris,” said Grable, who has visited 10 times. “It has worked pretty well for me.”

The group left Washougal on June 28 and returned July 5. Funding a trip to France is not cheap, and both Zieman and Carstens had to work to earn the money to go.

“I owe my parents 60 hours of yard work, but it was totally worth it,” Carstens said.

Zieman used money she’d saved from working as a ski instructor at Mount Hood. Her parents helped out with expenses as well.

“It was so much fun and I saw a lot,” she said. “I think my parents realize it was worth it.”

Both girls have taken three years of French but found interpreting the local dialect a bit more challenging than being in class.

“In real conversation, I couldn’t understand it well,” Carstens said. “But most people there know English.”

Added Zieman, “I liked reading the signs. That was much easier to understand. It was cool.”

Some of the best memories weren’t from planned excursions, but random moments of fun during the trip: Getting ice cream after dinner at 10 p.m., and pooling their Euros together to buy a copious amount of chocolate at a local bakery.

“I really liked it when we got to have our own little adventures,” Carstens said.

Both girls agree the trip has changed them for the better.

“If someone is thinking about it, they should just go for it,” Zieman said. “I had so much fun and got closer with everyone.”

Added Carstens, “It has changed my outlook on other cultures. Now, I want to major in business and minor in French, and find my way back.”

Seeing the excitement on his students’ faces as they remember the trip is the biggest reward for Grable.

“That’s the best part,” he said. “Seeing this through their eyes, the wonder and the excitement.”