Comstock Park World History Teacher Betsy Rybarczyk fell in love with the world years ago, when as a recent high school grad, she grabbed her backpack and set off to travel Europe on her own.
That’s a passion Rybarczyk wants to replicate with her students, and the reason why she started taking Comstock Park students abroad. Rybarczyk recently took 16 students and two chaperones to Europe, where they toured London, Paris, Florence and Rome, and even got to meet with high-level diplomatic officials in Paris.
“Any teenager, especially one from America, lives in this microcosmic world. They don’t realize what a global society we truly live in,” she said. “I have lived in three continents, and my husband and I have traveled constantly around the world. I try to have that passion be contagious and have students get out of their comfort zone and start living more globally.”
The strategy seems to be working for students who have traveled with her. Student Brittany Smith has traveled all over the U.S. and said couldn’t wait to get out and see the world.
“When Mrs. Rybarczyk told my class about this trip and that she needed more people to go, my stomach just dropped. I immediately wanted to go so bad I could practically taste it. I knew this was the chance of a lifetime and that not many other 15 year-olds get the opportunity to be able to do this,” she said.
“I love travelling, the experiences and memories that go along with it, and the overall excitement of it all. Europe has always been ideal to me. The cultural aspects, the architecture, and the history fascinate me,” she said.
This year, students enjoyed a special treat and visited the American Embassy in Paris, America’s first diplomatic mission that counted Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison among its prominent envoys.
Here, they met Junaid Munir who organized the embassy visit with four other diplomats. The diplomats shared their experiences in working in Foreign Service at various postings and the perks and dangers of such work. Some had been stationed in Saudi Arabia during an Al Qaeda attack; others experienced the more recent Syria evacuation.
In their travels, Rybarczyk said she also hopes students learn how blessed they are (as Americans) and do something about it. “I want them to understand and have a sympathetic heart to poverty. It’s all about bringing global awareness and encouraging them to take action.”
Rybarczyk is a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and last year led the High School’s efforts to helped raise funds to free enslaved people High School, in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM).
“What we’re doing is taking the microscope out and examining the world about them and having them explore how to be better citizens,” she said.
That’s something that Smith can relate to. “Because of this trip, I plan on studying abroad in college and finding a career that requires travelling to different places,” she said.