AUSTRALIA – A year ago, the Somers Central School District decided to no longer sponsor trips abroad for students at Somers High School. The school-sponsored travel program, called Somers Journeys, had been around for many years, providing students the opportunity to travel to other countries and learn about different cultures. It was a big loss for the Somers students. Three veteran teachers felt the benefit of these trips was immeasurable and decided to organize their own non-profit travel group.

With the consent of Schools Superintendent Dr. Raymond Blanch, Lisa Siano, Desiree St. John and Paul Saia created ROAM Overseas. The philosophy of ROAM Overseas is to enrich education by giving students the opportunity to learn new perspectives by creating authentic and meaningful experiences that will inspire a passion for world travel and citizenship.

This past February break, the group took 37 students to Sydney, Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef. They flew out of John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday night, Feb. 17, and arrived on Sunday morning, Feb. 19, after approximately 22 hours in the air. Sydney, is 16 hours ahead of New York and the International Date Line was crossed on the way there.

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Upon arriving, the students went on a boat tour of Sydney Harbor. The following day, they were off to the Taronga Zoo, where they saw a large variety of marsupial mammals. In the afternoon, they experienced the Sydney Aquarium, which provided them a close-up look of the underwater life in the waters surrounding Australia.

The next day, they took a tour of the Rocks district in Sydney, an area originally settled by convicts who had been banished there by England between 1788 and 1868. The afternoon was spent touring the magnificent Sydney Opera House, followed by a visit to an opal center.

Midweek, the group took a flight to Cairns to prepare for a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, the following day. After a 90-minute boat ride, the ferry came to rest at a docking station, where the students viewed the reef by riding in a glass-bottom boat and a semi-submersible submarine. One of the highlights of the trip was the hour-long, marine biologist-lead, snorkeling safari. Most of the students went on this excursion, where they witnessed schools of fish, sharks, clownfish, coral, and giant clams, just to name a few, in their natural habitat.

On the last day in the Cairns, the kids witnessed beautiful landscapes and waterfalls as they took a train ride through the rainforest on their way to a privately own preserve. The preserve afforded them the opportunity to ride through the rainforest in a World War II, army duck boat, dance with Aborigines, learn to throw a boomerang, feed kangaroos and wallabies, hold a koala and/or a crocodile and ride a sky rail over the rainforest.

Upon flying back to Sydney, the next day, the students spent some time at the world-famous Bondi Beach. That night, everyone dined at the revolving Sydney Towers while enjoying a circular overhead view of the city of Sydney. Throughout the trip, the students also had the opportunity to taste different foods, like crocodile and kangaroo.

The group departed Sydney on Sunday morning, Feb. 26, and, after another 22-hour flight, arrived in New York on Sunday, once again crossing the International Date Line and getting back the day they on the way there.

All in all, the ROAM Overseas first trip was a tremendous success and a good time was had by all. Next year, ROAM Overseas will be taking another group of students to Italy.

Learn more about ROAM Overseas at roamoverseas.com.