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AN EXPLORATION OF CULTURE

  • A photograph of mountains in Salzburg, Austria, at the Wolfgangsee, captured during ConVal student Nick Batty’s trip to Austria with his German class last spring. Courtesy

  • A crater in Iceland as seen by ConVal Nick Batty during a trip abroad last spring.  Courtesy



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 14, 2017

ConVal senior Nick Batty took a handful of people on a whirlwind trip through Iceland, Germany, and Vienna on Wednesday night.

In the basement of the Stephenson Memorial Library in Greenfield, Nick, who is 17, presented a slideshow of pictures and talked about his first experience abroad as part of a field trip for ConVal students who are enrolled in German. Nick said there were about 25 students who attended the field trip last April.

“It was a great experience,” Nick said. “I definitely have the travel bug now.”

ConVal German language teacher Cynthia Hodgdon said the trip has been running for 20 years. She said ConVal partners with a school is Salzburg, Austria, called the Akademisches Gymnasium. Hodgdon said Austrian students visit the Monadnock area every other fall and ConVal students go to Austria every other spring. She said ConVal students must host an Austrian in order to travel abroad.

In Austria, she said the kids stay at each other’s houses. They attend school and go on various cultural field trips. She said they spend nights and weekends with the families.

“I think the trip is important because it gets students out of their comfort zone,” Hodgdon said. “It opens their eyes to a whole different culture. They see that there are other ways of doing things that are just as great, if not better than how we do things in America.”

The first stop the group took was to Iceland. Nick said they spent most of their time in Reykjavik. He said they spent time in Iceland traveling to natural wonders that included a massive crater, a geyser, waterfalls, Icelandic ponies, and a national park located near the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that are slowly pulling apart from one another.

The group later moved to Germany. There they saw the Bavarian Sea and the area where the 1972 summer Olympic games were held.

Nick said they moved on to Austria, where they spent the majority of their time.

Then they went to Salzburg, Vienna, and Hallein.

He said they stayed with host families while they were in Austria, where they spoke in German.

“I’m not fluent, but I always said, ‘If you drop me in a German speaking country for a year I would survive, I wouldn’t have much of a social life, but I would survive,’ ” he said.

That being said, Nick was dropped into an Austrian high school philosophy class that was taught in German at one point during the trip and was totally lost.

“Half of the Americans were sleeping and the other half had no idea what was going on,” Nick said.

Library Directory Beverly Pietlicki said Nick has worked at the library as a part-time assistant for more than a year. She said he has done a lot to contribute the library since he was taken on, like conducting teen advisory on book and movie purchasing, giving patrons recommendations and designing promotional fliers for its programs.

Last spring, Pietlicki said Nick asked for some time off to go to Austria with the German club. She said she had no reservations about letting him attend.

“During my sophomore year in high school, I had gone to Austria for a ski trip and was excited for him to bring back his experience and share it with all of us,” she said.

Nick’s father, Doug, said he has traveled through parts of Europe and Asia. So when Nick told them that he wanted to go abroad on the trip, he was supportive.

“I was like goodbye, have fun,” Doug said.

Already, Doug and his wife Kristen’s older son has gone through the German program and participated in the field trip. They said their younger daughter, who is a freshman, plans on going in the future.

Doug said they also host Austrian students when they come to the United States on the cultural exchange.

“You get these, ‘Well we’re not the same,’ ” Doug said. “No culturally, we’re pretty much the same. But you have to get down to that one-on-one before you realize that everyone is pretty much the same.”

(Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.)