When one hears that a student is traveling to places like Japan, Korea, Amsterdam, Paris, Spain or Switzerland, they might think this student is traveling with loved ones or with an organized program. However, many Palo Alto High School seniors chose to visit these destinations as part of senior trips with their friends before they all depart in the fall to go to their respective colleges or gap year programs.
After working hard for years in stressful school environments, many seniors treat themselves to a fun, exciting trip away from home — a last hoorah before separating from their longtime friends.
“[Students] haven’t really had time to go on a vacation with friends as much cause you always either go with your family or you would need to stay home and study,” senior Minyoung Kim who plans on visiting Korea and Japan, said. “In that regard, [going on a senior trip is] like celebrating your adulthood or even freedom.”
To some students, this trip is also a sort of farewell or final chapter to their high school life.
“The senior trip is my way of closing my high school journey and opening the chapter of college life, individualism and exploration of myself and the world,” senior Dorothy Han, who is visiting Spain and Switzerland, said.
The end-of-the-year trip after school ends is also seen as a learning experience. Since many students are going to places without adults to rely on, they will learn to be more independent and to complete tasks, such as planning and organizing the trips, on their own.
“Planning-wise, you have to stay on track and make sure everything is bought and taken care of,” Kim said. “We’re planning everything and there won’t be anyone to take care of us and drag us to places so it really depends on what we want to do with our time.”
At the same time, the senior trip forces some students out of their comfort zone. Many are travelling to unfamiliar places and learning to interact with individuals who do not necessarily speak the same language or have the customs they are familiar with.
“When you’re traveling on your own and exploring a completely new culture, you have to put yourself out there and take the initiative to ask locals for directions or ask them to translate things for you,” Han said.
The living arrangements also prove to be an interesting experience. For senior Albert Leng, besides apartments, he and a fellow classmate are also excited to stay at a youth hostel in Europe.
“[A youth hostel is] a cheap place to stay for minors and there are usually a lot of bunk beds in the same room so everyone is living with everyone and we’re all strangers,” Leng said.
Each group of seniors chose different destinations for different reasons. Kim and four other seniors are visiting Japan and Korea. Being Korean, Kim hopes to show her friends around and immerse them in the Korean culture.
For Leng, he, along with one other friend, is travelling to Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva and Florence. After studying French for a few years, he wanted to visit the country and experience their culture. Although still being planned, Leng and his friend want to attend a music festival in Amsterdam.
Lastly, Han is visiting Spain and Switzerland with her best friend. She chose Spain for its rich history and culture and amazing architecture and chose Switzerland for the natural scenery.
“[My friend] and I are big nature people,” Han said. “We love taking nature photos and Switzerland is a country filled with beautiful mountains and large lakes and other breathtaking scenes”.
For each student, the senior trip holds its own meaning, whether it be a closure of their high school journey with their close friends, a learning experience or the introduction to a new chapter in life.