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11-day tour to Korea, Japan in summer 2025 open to Madison teens

MADISON – Seoul. Osaka. Tokyo? If those sites pique your interest and you’re a teenager, an upcoming student tour could be the dream excursion that you’ve wanted.

Liz Vaughn, an art instructor at James Clemens High School, once again is organizing a summer tour for students. In summer 2025, the group will visit Japan and South Korea. An accomplished artist, Vaughn is a National Board Certified Teacher or NBCT.

While in high school herself, Vaughn realized an attraction to traveling when her church’s pastor took some teenagers to Italy. “It was life-altering for me to travel abroad. I learned so much, not just about Italian art and culture, but about myself and about life,” she said.

Over the years, Vaughn has taken several trips, with and without students. “I find that the world is my classroom when I’m traveling,” she said. “Sometimes, I am the teacher, but I find myself learning as much as the kids do.”

“Mark Twain said, ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness,’ and I agree,” Vaughn said.

Admittedly, traveling with a group of teenagers requires substantial work. “I have to coordinate a lot of moving parts before and during the trip to ensure that they get the best experience possible,” Vaughn said. “But seeing the kids grow over the course of a few weeks is amazing.”

Students on tour must work on problem solving, adaptability, time management and, most importantly, confidence. “Even though it’s a lot of work and responsibility, I love to travel. It’s part of who I am as a person,” Vaughn said.

At James Clemens, Vaughn sponsors the Travelers Society, a club that explores the world from her classroom. “We talk about language, food, culture and what it’s like to travel. Any James Clemens student can be in the club, even if they’re not planning on any trips,” she said.

This year, Travelers Society is focusing on Rome and Greece. “This summer, I’m taking a group of students and parents to Rome and then the Greek isles. Next summer, we’re visiting South Korea and Japan, so that’s what I’ll focus on for the club next school year,” Vaughn said.

For the 2025 trip, Vaughn will visit an Asian country for the first time. “I’m thrilled to have this experience. We have requested a departure date of June 4, 2025,” she said. “This is not a school-sponsored trip, so students and parents do not have to be zoned for James Clemens to join us, but all adults have to agree to a background check.”

On Day 1, the group will fly overnight to South Korea. After a day in Seoul, they will ride a bullet train to Busan and visit a theme park, Gamcheon Culture Village, Haeundae Beach and Dongbaekseom Island. On Day 4, the stops will include Haedong Yoggungsa Temple and U.N. Peace Memorial Museum, along with a cable car ride over Songdo Beach.

The entourage will travel back to Seoul and tour Odusan Unification Observatory, Yeouido Han River and (optionally) take a taekwondo class. Day 6 will be devoted to a tour of Seoul, including the president’s home, Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Seoul Tower.

Moving on to Japan, the group will fly to Osaka and then travel to Kyoto, including time at Nijo Castle, a Zen Buddhist temple and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. In Tokyo, an expert guide will lead their tour, along with stops at Meiji Shinto Shrine, Lake Saiko, wind and ice caves and an in-depth tour of Mount Fuji.

For more information, call 256-426-7040, email elizabthlakso@gmail.com or visit bit.ly/KoreaJapan25.

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