History has always been a subject that I love and listening to my friend Ben talk about the trips he has been on was a big part of why I wanted to get involved. Once we were on the trip, I realized that this was more than a school trip. The teachers weren’t just teachers, they were travellers and just as excited about learning as we were – they also treated us like part of a team, which made it easier to learn with them. It was only two weeks, but it felt like I got a whole semester of learning.
One of the best things about this trip has been having my grandfather with me. He ended up learning a lot his own about his great-grandfather. He was one of the lucky ones who came home. It made me think about the soldiers who have no families. I tried to contact the family of my solider and did not get anything back. I found his name on the Vimy monument; I made sure to take the time to touch it and acknowledge him.
When we went to Ginevchy en Gohelle, we were greeted as family. We shared a meal with the mayor and some of the people working on the Year of Canada committee. They told us about the celebrations. The people we met explained that they were grateful for Canadian intervention during the war. That experience made the war more real to me.
Another great experience was working with Lee, one of the trip leaders. He was always emotional about the experience of war but also seemed to actually care about us and what we were getting out of it. One day, he organized us into platoons on a hill and sent us into battle. He wanted us to get a better physical connection to what had happened, instead of listening to a lecture.
Part of my personal growth has been becoming more outgoing around new people and being more engaged in the conversation and discussions. Before this trip, I had trouble talking to new people because I am a shy person, but being on this trip has helped me become more outgoing and I value that. I learned to actually join in on conversations, I opened up more and didn’t worry so much about what people were thinking.
Jacob Bland, High School student
Smiths Falls, Ontario