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Journey of Discovery: A Mother-Son Road Trip Through Europe

A blog post written by VICI director Nathalie, about the European trip she took with her son, Max! Not only was it an experience of diverse cultures, but a journey of discovery. Upon returning home, Nathalie noticed the changes in Max – how he had matured, become more curious and opened up his mind to new things.

The blog reflects on this time, showing how students on the Starline Program can benefit from a European immersive experience!

The adventure begins!

A few months ago, my 17-year-old son, who can be described as someone who prefers being at home, tends to lack confidence and isn’t always enthusiastic about various activities, approached me with an idea: “Hey, Mom, you said that we could do something together when I’m on school holiday at the end of the month.”

It was somewhat short notice, but I loved the fact that he wanted to do something together, especially considering that he was in the UK where he lives, and I was spending several weeks at our French office.

“Great, Max. Where would you like to go?” I asked, to which he replied, “How about Prague?”

So, Max flew from the UK to visit me, and off we went on a road trip to the Czech Republic.
We had an incredible time!

A teenager hiding behind a large icecream dessert on a European street

Enjoying some delicious desserts!

Exploring places to enrich cultural awareness

I was taken aback by this response but equally delighted. I had visited Prague when I was around his age, many years ago, and I cherished the memories. I was also pleased that my son wanted to explore a place that could enrich his cultural awareness of Europe and add a cultural dimension to his education.

(On a side note, I asked him why he chose Prague, and he said, “Well, I’ve seen quite a few TikTok videos recently talking about Prague, and it looks like a pretty cool place.” So, there you go, sometimes, even if we’re concerned about our children spending too much time on social media, it can offer some unexpected benefits.)

“Mom, by the time we return to England on Sunday, we will have been to six different countries! How awesome is that?!”

A teenage boy sat waiting for a plane to take off

Off we go!

We departed from our home in Eastern France early in the morning, had lunch in Switzerland, stayed overnight in Austria because it was close to the Bavarian castles we wanted to visit on our route.

We also stopped in Munich because Max was keen to see the BMW Museum (which, by the way, I recommend to anyone because it’s truly fantastic). Finally, we arrived in Prague, where we spent two or three days.

On our last day, we had breakfast at eight o’clock, which isn’t too early, and even though we stopped at Stuttgart to explore a couple more car museums, we had dinner with my parents at 7 pm in France that same day.

Our experience of diverse cultures

The reason I wanted to share this story is that when I was recounting it to an American friend, she exclaimed, “Wait a minute, you visited all these different countries in how many days? You had breakfast in Prague and dinner in France, how?” For people in the United States, it can be quite astonishing to visit so many different countries in such a short time. However, that’s one of the unique privileges of living in Eastern France – we have neighboring countries like Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Italy within easy reach. This allows us to experience diverse cultures, meet different people, savor various cuisines, and immerse ourselves in different atmospheres with ease.

I felt fortunate to be able to share this experience with my son as I wanted him to see the boundless possibilities that the world offers.

A young teenage boy eating bread and cheese on a sunny square in Europe

Enjoying lunch in Munich

Like many teenagers his age, Max is contemplating what he’ll do next year. He’s applying to universities without being entirely certain if that’s what he truly wants.

Should he consider taking a gap year?

Should he work for a while and possibly return to education a few years later?

For me, sharing this time with him was incredible because we could discuss: How people live in different countries, what they eat, what their history is, what traditions they follow, and more.

Our conversations weren’t about school, homework, or future studies, yet somehow these discussions could influence how he perceives his own future.

Although we didn’t know much about Germany or the Czech Republic, and Google was our trusty companion, we made an effort to learn a bit of the local language and be polite wherever we went.

I noticed a change in Max. He had matured. We were having what I’d call ‘elevated conversations.’

The change in Max

When we returned, which was only after five or six days, I noticed a change in Max. He had matured. We were having what I’d call ‘elevated conversations.’ He wasn’t the same person. He appeared to be a young man who was more cultured, open-minded, and engaging. He was discussing and questioning things, demonstrating a broader worldview and a greater appreciation for how diverse and fascinating the world can be.

Today’s children have access to technology and a wealth of information, and while life might seem easier for them than it was for us as parents, it is not without its challenges.

Social media can create unrealistic expectations, leading teenagers to feel inadequate when they can’t live up to the flawless images and seemingly perfect lifestyles they encounter. They are confronted with numerous choices for their future, which can be overwhelming and lead to a sense of uncertainty and the impossibility of making decisions.

A busy high street at night in Prague

An evening in Prague

He was discussing and questioning things, demonstrating a broader worldview and a greater appreciation for how diverse and fascinating the world can be.

Two teenage boys wearing headphones in a car taking a selfies with a dog

Max and his brother, Sacha with our pet dog Lando!

I’ve encountered many well-rounded teenagers, including Max’s friends, or students at the academy, who are somewhat lost.

Indeed, when a 17-year-old boy leads a typical and healthy life, goes to school, engages in activities like playing soccer, relishes pizza with friends, and spends weekends immersed in video games, it can be challenging to ascertain his true identity, strengths, and aspirations.

An experience like the one Max and I shared might not provide all the answers, but it can certainly open his mind to the world that exists out there and help him gain the confidence to become the person he wants to be.
He can travel, learn new languages, make friends in different countries, and engage in more mature conversations.

Students will immerse themselves on the Starline Program

I witnessed a noticeable transformation in Max after just six days.

When our students participate in the Starline program, their primary homes are in France and the UK, where they immerse themselves in the culture. Additionally, they have the opportunity to take short trips to Germany, Switzerland, and Italy because these countries are just next door!

I genuinely wish to share the experiences my children have with our students in the program. I want to show them how amazing it is to meet people from different countries, understand their history, culture, and traditions. I know that this experience will stay with them forever, helping them grow, see the world from a different perspective, and make more informed decisions about their future.

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