Students pose in front of Mozart’s statue in Vienna during last year’s summer trip. Photo courtesy of Andrzej Rozbicki

History comes alive for students on Europe trip

By  Emily Barber, Youth Speak News
  • June 29, 2017

Senior high school students will spend a summer that’s less ordinary as they depart on a three-week whirlwind tour of Europe — a trip of a lifetime that also happens to be worth two high school credits.

Students from various schools in the Greater Toronto Area depart July 10 to complete the trip portion of a music and history course.

This is the fifth trip organized by Andrzej Rozbicki, retired high school teacher and director of the Celebrity Symphony Orchestra, with an exclusive partnership between the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Polish Consulate of Toronto.

“It gives students an insight into the different approaches other countries have on being Catholic, seeing different Masses in different languages,” says Rozbicki.

“Music helps make kids smarter. It’s all about leading kids in the right direction, sowing seeds that can develop into talented young people.”

Students travel across Europe performing and promoting Canadian and Catholic music they’ve learned at home, each bringing to the table their own unique skills.

Churches across Europe will bear witness to these young singers in action with their renditions of well-known songs, including Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” conducted by Rozbicki.

The sheer number of countries to visit makes for a fast-paced adventure. This year students will visit Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.

“It covers the best of all the places we’ve gone in the past as well as some new ones, and it is very likely there will be another trip next year,” said

Alfred Zawadzki, a supply teacher with the TCDSB who has gone on the trip every year as a supervisor.

The exposure to different cultures and chances for learning opportunities is really quite unprecedented. Few high school students can claim an equal experience. Each stop has its own historical or musical significance, giving the unique perspective of seeing the sites they read about — a far more engaging way to learn than memorizing facts in history class.

The Auschwitz concentration camp, the 2,000-year-old Verona Arena amphitheatre, Vienna and Barcelona have been some of the highlights of past trips. This year, stops will include the birthplace of Mozart in Austria and the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, a World Heritage site.

“It’s a fabulous opportunity that allows you to broaden your horizons and encounter a number of different perspectives,” said Jacob Brozyna, who has made the trip four times and is now a second-year student at the University of Toronto.

“Not only do you get to visit all these countries, but you meet people with very similar interests and passions who you wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

(Barber, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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