HILLSBOROUGH: Students traipse across Europe with teacher for educational experience


Among the students from Hillsborough Township public schools to go on the Education First trip

By Andrew Martins, Managing Editor
As she traveled along the Seine River, Auten Road Intermediate School teacher Karen Hoffman knew the view of the Eiffel Tower she was sharing with nearly a dozen students was more than an angle on an iconic structure – it was a once in a lifetime moment.
For nine days in June, she and 11 students from the Hillsborough Township Public Schools District traipsed around London, Paris and Rome in a bid to see the sights and learn a thing or two along the way.
“This was not just a pleasure trip. This was designed to be educational,” Ms. Hoffman said. “This really had education ingrained in the trip as a whole.”
Organized through Education First (EF), a tour company that specializes in helping students learn about the world through travel, the trip was the first of its kind for pupils in the Hillsborough area.
Students who went on the trip were eligible to use their experience for high school or college credits.
Wasting no time, Ms. Hoffman said she, four chaperones and 11 students left for London the day after school ended on June 16. Of the 11 students who went, she said a majority of them were from her seventh grade class.
Though not officially sanctioned by the board of education, Ms. Hoffman said she took it upon herself to work with EF to serve as the trip’s organizer, while the company provided a tour director in Europe.
“My job was to do the pre-trip organization,” she said. “We had meetings where we talked about the currency, what they would need to pack and things of that nature. Once we got there, I was in charge of the group while the director was in charge of the tour.”
While in Europe, Ms. Hoffman said the group got to witness major events from earlier this summer, including the ‘Brexit’ vote and the Euro Cup tournament.
Due to recent incidents of terrorism throughout Europe, Ms. Hoffman said the group’s itinerary underwent changes in the interest of security.
“We did not want to be in any location where there was a large mass of people,” Ms. Hoffman said. “Instead of going to the base of the Eiffel Tower, we took a cruise up the Seine and looked at the tower from a distance.”
Along with keeping away from large gatherings of people, tour organizers implemented a 10 p.m. curfew and kept the group away from city centers.
Since the district did not offer its support beside allowing posters advertising the trip to be posted in its schools, Ms. Hoffman said some students wrote letters to family members and potential sponsors, including local businesses, to help pay for the trip.
“That was an excellent experience for the students because it gave them some real world purpose for their writing,” she said.
With everyone safely back home, Ms. Hoffman said steps are already being taken to plan another trip during the district’s spring break in April 2017 to Italy, with stops in Florence, Venice and Pisa.
Starting in September, Ms. Hoffman and interested students will begin fundraising and generating interest for their next trip.
“I’d like to take as many students abroad as I can so they can get to experience the culture and the wonders of Europe,” Ms. Hoffman said.