"I didn't want to leave."
"I can't wait to go back," shesaid
Spalding students on trip to Croatia
By PAUL WILSON, Staff Writer
Five Archbishop Spalding High School students recently traveled halfway around the world to the war-torn European nation of Croatia.
It was a trip they initially thought would be merely a getaway from life in the United States, but quickly turned into an experience none would forget and all wanted to repeat.
"It was nothing like the United States at all," said 15-year-old sophomore Allie Henschel of Arnold. "I didn't want to leave."
The trip, which lasted from Nov. 15 to 23, was coordinated by the Maryland Center for Civic Education as a way to celebrate International Education Week.
The center has spent the past four years developing a partnership with Croatian officials to bring students and teachers from both countries together to learn from one another.
James Adomanis, executive director of the center, came up with the idea last summer as a way to allow students from the private school in Severn to grow personally, educationally, civically and culturally.
"The primary purpose of this trip was to exchange ideas and experiences to let the kids become more aware of the world around them," Mr. Adomanis said.
His 15-year-old daughter, Bethany, is a Spalding sophomore and was a member of the inaugural trip.
Miss Adomanis and four friends -- friends who could raise the $900 cost of the trip -- made the trip this year.
"It ended up being more of a cultural exchange than a civic one," said Nicole Tasker, 15, of Annapolis. "We went to a Croatian school, lived with a Croatian host family and hung out with Croatian students and guides."
The students agreed the trip was most memorable because they saw both good and bad aspects of the country.
In addition to seeing Zagraeb, the capital city, they were taken to a cemetery where thousands of victims of the Bosnian War of the early 1990s are buried.
Some of the students were surprised at how knowledgeable the Croatian teen-agers were.
"The students there know more about our government than many do here," said 16-year-old junior Eric Stachura of Glen Burnie. "They were always questioning us about Iraq and the president and Sept. 11."
The Spalding students admitted they were a bit stunned with the difference in lifestyles between the two countries.
Not only is there mandatory military service for all men older than 18 there, but it is not uncommon to see kids younger than 18 out in bars and clubs late into the night.
"They definitely have more freedom than we do over here," Miss Tasker said. "They might be bored over here."
The students will have the opportunity to test that theory next spring when Spalding welcomes five Croatian students for a week.
Along with attending classes and seeing the sights of the region, the Croatian students will live with the families of the five Spalding students who just returned.
Miss Adomanis said she hopes this trip will be the start of a lasting relationship.
"I can't wait to go back," she said.
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