- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

WHITING, Ind. (AP) - It was the food - French pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant), Spanish tapas and Italian gelato.

It also was the architecture and art works in museums in France and Madrid, and studying El Greco’s “Burial of the Count of Orgaz,” that captured the imagination of 13 Whiting High School students.

The third- and fourth-year Spanish students, along with one fourth-year French student, five parents and two teachers - Marina Klochan and Daniel Nichols - spent 12 glorious days in Europe on spring break soaking up the language, the land and the culture.

Junior Leilani Bigott said Klochan loves art and always explains it to students, who have studied “Las Meninas,” a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez - the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in Madrid’s Museo del Prado.

“It was amazing seeing it in real life and hearing the guide talk about it,” Bigott said. “It covers an entire wall.”

Junior Kata Bes, a third-year Spanish student, said they learned so much more from being there.

“We went to a lot of different museums,” she said.

“It was cool to see the inspiration for (it) and the different cultural aspects. The environment and the people were different. When we were in Spain, we spoke Spanish. The first meal I ordered was a hamburger: ‘Quiero una hamburguesa?’ I was so nervous. I also spoke in Spanish when we visited different shops, and I asked how much it cost.”

Alexia Gomez loved the architecture. She especially loved the “Lion Monument” in Lucerne. Students said it is a giant dying lion carved out of a wall of sandstone rock above a pond on the edge of the medieval town. It was designed as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers from central Switzerland who lost their lives while serving the French king Louis XVI during the French Revolution.

Gomez, who did some research, pointed out the sculptor was paid only half the promised money, and the lion is lying in what appears to be the shape of a pig rather than the circle it was supposed to be.

Senior Cecilia Gomez said she is Mexican and both her parents speak Spanish, but she grew up speaking English. Now in fourth-year Spanish, Gomez said she understands and speaks it better than she reads it.

“As I learned it, I noticed things that my mom would say that kind of match up,” she said. “I think one of the most beautiful countries that we saw was Switzerland. It is so clean. Where we went, there was a gondola ride and we had a chance to see the mountains high up. It was breathtaking.”

Glorious though it was, the trip was not without its small mishaps.

While going to a restaurant, senior John Resa said he walked into a glass door. Klochan said she and one of the parents were just commenting on how clean the windows were, when Resa walked into it. Klochan said no one was hurt during the trip and they heard comments from many people about how well-behaved the students were.

The group also visited the Duomo, in the heart of Milan, always alive and dynamic. The students said they thought it looked very Gothic.

The students also say it’s not a myth - the infamous siesta does really exist. While the daily break may not always include a nap, the students said businesses were closed.

Senior Isaiah Garcia said one of the things that stood out to him is that the streets are very narrow. “Many of them in Spain were made of cobblestones and they led up to squares or plazas. There were no real major streets and not much car traffic. There was mostly foot traffic and bicycles,” he said.

Klochan said her students learned much of what she wanted them to learn: the beauty of the land, the culture and the art.

“We had just finished a travel chapter and they had a chance to see it and experience the things in the book,” she said.

Nichols said, “I wanted these guys to expand their view of the world.

“A lot of them are from Northwest Indiana originally and hadn’t experienced anything outside of Northwest Indiana. That’s not bad but by traveling to Europe, they get a chance to see other people and how they live. What they learn from that is that people are people in Europe or here. Accept all people and the differences in their culture.”

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Source: The Times, https://bit.ly/1Ekie3d

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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