Walls Rome Trip, First Outside U.S. Since Pandemic, a “Resounding Success”
Seniors on the Rome trip visiting Pompeii Feb. 22 / Credits: Jan McGlennon
Last month, 16 Walls seniors accompanied teachers Carlton Ackerman, Jane Brinley and Jan McGlennon on their annual trip to the magical city, and from visiting the Colosseum to enjoying the exquisite Italian cuisine, the trip was nothing short of spectacular.
While in Rome, students visited countless notable locations, including the Borghese Gallery, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museums, the Capitoline Museums, the National Museum, and the Stadium of Domitian. Other excursions included biking along the Appian Way, olive picking in the countryside, and a day trip to Pompeii.
The trip, which took place Feb. 14-24, was the sixth Walls trip to Rome. But it came after a break from the biannual schedule of previous trips to Rome due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which created numerous barriers to the trip. In fact, the 2023 excursion was the first Walls-led international trip since 2019.
Even coming out of the pandemic, restrictions prevented the trip from going as planned. “DCPS had a ban on international travel which wasn’t lifted until last November, [when] we had hoped to do this trip,” Ms. McGlennon said. “We didn’t get the final approval until less than a month before when we were going.”
The pandemic impacted the trip in other ways, too. “This year, we limited [the students going on the trip] to seniors just because they hadn’t had a chance to travel previously because of COVID. Usually, it’s first come, first served, and the people who are able to pay their deposit and are organized are the ones who get to go,” Ms. McGlennon explained.
For the teachers involved, meticulous planning was integral to the trip’s success. “We had to plan out what we were going to do every single day, from morning to night; we planned out which days we were going to the museums — nothing was left to chance,” Ms. McGlennon said.
Unfortunately, a minor hurdle early on did arise early on. “Our luggage got delayed and we had flight cancellation delays, so we weren’t able to see the Pantheon the day we originally planned to,” trip attendee Savannah Alexander (‘23) said. “But after that, everything was smooth sailing.”
Still, for Ms. McGlennon, the educational payoff of the trip made it very much worth the struggles. “I think all travel can enrich people,” she said. “Rome, especially, has so much to offer that I think kids with all kinds of interests can find something they’re intrigued by or things that appeal to them.”
Many of the students on the trip take or formerly took Latin, including Meerabela Kempf (‘23), who said connections to classical history were at the forefront of the experience. “After years of learning about ancient Rome, finally seeing the structures and places I learned so much about was incredible,” she said.
Even in terms of the weather, the trip struck unusual luck. “It was sunny every single day. As soon as we left it started raining and it’s been raining every day since then,” Ms. McGlennon added.
According to Alexander, some days were busier than others, but each day was filled with a comfortable balance of scheduling, improvisation, and relaxation. Ms. McGlennon noted that “they had time every day where they could, for example, go to lunch on their own.” On their last day in Rome, students were even afforded an afternoon to explore the city independently.
The planned aspects of the trip left little else for spontaneity, though. Students were busy “from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.” daily, according to Ms. McGlennon.
While Ms. McGlennon remained unsure as to whether there will be a Rome trip next year, there was no doubt about the success of the 2023 trip.
“Absolutely, it was a success,” Alexander said. “We saw everything we wanted to see, we made some great memories, ate some great food, had great gelato. I learned a lot more about my classmates who maybe I didn’t talk to before the trip, and had a lot of fun.”
“Despite the hurdles, parents, teachers and school administration worked hard to make the trip happen,” said Mitali Mirchandani (‘23), another student on the trip. “We were able to make the most of every minute there.”