A select group of high school students are starting their new school year fresh off the trip of a lifetime.

KGUN 9 met the Tucson High Magnet travel club minutes before they crossed the airport security line at TUS, to begin their journey in Berlin, Germany’s capital city.

Finnegan King spent seven days discovering the bustling metropolis alongside his classmates. For him and his chaperone, THMS music teacher Martha Reed, one of the biggest trip highlights was taking in the sights and sounds from cultural landmarks.

“I’ve been to southern Germany,” Reed said, “so experiencing that different culture up in that part of (the country) was fascinating.”

“There’s one stretch of land” King said, “that had these two enormous granite pillars, stretching (into) the USSR memorial and it just kept on going. It was a beautiful thing.”

Being a school trip, the club visited renowned museums and learned about Berlin’s history as a city and stage for major world events. In other parts of their seven-day vacation, the students met peers from other schools and countries there to enjoy an international conference on sustainability.

“Once we got to the actual conference part, the last 3-4 days of the trip,” Reed said, “the students were on their own track and they were working groups with students from all over the world.”

King said those projects and conversations helped put the challenges his hometown faces into perspective. “We were paired up with a class from Missouri, whose (terrain is) entirely just swampland,” he said.

“They’ve dug canals, but they’re not to keep the water. They’re to get rid of it. It was an interesting way to see how resources are managed.”

King and Reed also said they enjoyed moving around the city using public transit and well-designed bike lanes. That inspired them, they said, to think about ways to apply design philosophies and technologies on Tucson’s future roads and infrastructure.

“Everywhere there was a section of sidewalk out just for bikes,” King said. “There were cyclists passing constantly, and it was this really neat thing to see a metropolitan capital not be over- flooded by cars.”

“We’re very car-centric in Arizona and in the western United States,” Reed said.

“For (the students) to see that, yes: people can take it to work, to a park, take it go hiking, anywhere at any time of day or night… It’s eye opening for them, and I really do hope it informs the next generation of city planners.”

Reed and the travel club have gone on past trips abroad by booking through companies like EF Tours. She said she’s grateful she gets to share these eye-opening cultural experiences with her students.