As a student with a passion for all things historical, I was over the moon when I was given the opportunity to visit the famous French battlefields on an annual school battlefields trip. A few years ago, my sister had been on a similar trip and after seeing how much fun she had, I was more than eager to put my name on the list.
The trip to France is an annual activity at my school and is organised by the three wacky history teachers. Despite our teachers fresh and fun approach to teaching, myself and my classmates always struggle to get a high grade in our assignments. Being a 4th year student with important exams coming up, I knew that I had to do whatever it took to boost my grades so that I could secure a place at my chosen college.
After speaking to my sister about her experience, I thought I knew what to expect– oh how wrong I was! The trip exposed me to a completely different way of learning about the Great War. Being able to walk in the footsteps of all the brave soldiers that fought for our country was one of the most inspiring things about this trip. We were able to explore beyond the pages of a textbook or the slides of a presentation and actually dig our heels in (quite literally) to the very experiences that these soldiers had.
In the few days my group spent in France and the surrounding areas, we managed to pack in so many different exciting and inspiring activities. From the beginning of the trip, we were encouraged to ask questions whilst we explored the historical landmarks such as the memorials and trenches. Despite only being there for a week, we were able to discover a wide range of places that covered quite a lot of the unit for our exam. Actually being there helped me to visualise everything that happened. By the end of the second day, everything that we learned in the classroom was coming together to create one big picture.
The whole trip allowed me to gain a new perspective of what actually happened in both world wars. A highlight for me was visiting the Thiepval Memorial, as well as the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Upon visiting these memorials, I was completely unaware at how much they would actually affect me. Seeing row after row of gravestones of both named and unnamed soldiers hit me harder than expected – I was a complete wreck on the way home!
We were encouraged to keep a diary throughout our trip, to help us keep track of what we had learnt. At the end of each day, we would write down at least 5 things that we had done as well as the peak of our day. This was really helpful when it became time to revise.
Not only was this trip a complete emotional rollercoaster, but it was probably one of the most valuable educational experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The amount of new things I learnt and the depth to which I understood them has been one of the main influences on my improved grade in GCSE History.