The English Faculty trip to the USA over February half term was a tremendous success and one that will live long in the memory of all concerned. The very early start was rewarded with some spectacular views mid-flight as we flew over Greenland and had an opportunity to see the Greenland Icecap in its full majestic glory. Three days in Washington DC involved a lot of walking (averaging over 16km a day) to take in the capitals sights including the War Memorials to the soldiers who fought in World War Two, the hauntingly beautiful Korean memorial and of course the simple but poignant walled memorial commemorating Vietnam. Our guide, Dan, was perhaps one of the highlights of the whole trip, exhibiting an exuberant enthusiasm for American history we could only admire. Students then had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History to take in the full extent and importance of the Presidential Office, amongst other exhibits. Some opportunistic photos were snapped at the White House in particular.
Our time in Washington DC finished with yet another huge breakfast courtesy of BreadFirst, a wonderful exciting and calorific diner that we frequented for three days before heading off on the long trek to Capitol Hill where the delights of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and the Congressional Library awaited. Mr. Todd’s excitement at seeing the 1507 World Map by Martin Waldseemüller, the world’s first accurate map of the planet as well as the History of Baseball exhibition in the congressional Library was very plain to see if not totally understood by all. Mrs Palmer was thrilled by the fact that we visited all three branches of the American government.
Following a scenic train journey from Washington to New York City students were treated to the awesome spectacle of the Empire State building as we left Penn Station as well as the chaos, noise, hustle and bustle that accompanied the 2km walk with suitcases down 8th Avenue to our hotel. The culture shock of New York following the relative calm of Washington was one of the highlights of the trip as most students were experiencing the city for the first time.
The central location of our hotel, next to Times Square afforded students ample opportunities to explore one of the great cities of the world. A night of Ten Pin Bowling in Times Square, shopping on 5th Avenue and taking in the panoramic views of Manhattan from the Top of the Rock were all exciting excursions during a very packed four days. Visits to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the poignant but emotionally devastating 9/11 memorial and museum allowed students time to reflect on very different aspects of America’s history. 9/11 in particular provided some context to the world we live in today and for many this was a very sobering but worthwhile experience.
The concept of taking 23 students from 19 different nationalities to the United Nations was not lost on our guide who simply commented that we were definitely in the right place. It was a tremendous privilege for our history students to witness the General Assembly in session and to enter the Security Council, really bringing our studies to life.
Throughout the visit all students behaved impeccably, were totally engaged in all the activities and sights visited and were a credit in their role as ambassadors for St George’s. We received many comments from locals in both cities regarding their maturity and good nature. Nowhere was this more evident than in their patience, tolerance and good humour during a long delay at JFK airport on the way home, resulting in a very long 36 hour day.
A huge thank you to Mrs Thiefain in her role as a subway expert and a walking talking GPS around New York, to Mrs Palmer for adding historical context and detail, her First Aid duties and herding and rounding up students with shouts of ‘groups’, and to Mr. Todd for 9 months of planning and grinning through the pain of an injured knee whilst walking 15 km around Lower Manhattan and Chinatown. However, the biggest thanks of all must go to the students themselves who made the trip the outstanding success that it was. “It’s the company you keep”, as they say.