Sara Taylor has long been interested in history, but her recent trip to Europe gave her a much deeper appreciation.
“In school we’re just taught the facts, we learn about our mistakes rather than how to learn from our mistakes,” said the 17-year-old from Errington who just returned from a trip to England, France and Belgium as one of 14 winners of the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize from the Vimy Foundation.
“When I went into it, I didn’t understand the gravity of it, I didn’t expect it to affect me on such a deep level,” she said describing the two week visit to places like the Churchill War Rooms and the Imperial War Museum in London and the Vimy Ridge memorial in France.
Taylor said she uncharacteristically clicked on a Facebook ad offering something about trips to Europe, and the rest fell into place as she won the scholarship from among hundreds of applications from across the country.
Other than starting with Second World War sites in London, they worked chronologically through war history and each student picked and focused on the story of a specific fallen soldier.
Taylor said she picked private William Edward Thorne and felt she could relate to him because he was from Nanaimo and was just a year older than her when he headed overseas where he died at Vimy at just 19.
The students made tributes to their specific soldiers, Taylor leaving seashells she felt she had in common with Thorn, coming from this seaside area.
The trip was meant to give the students a real-life sense of the experience of war and tie in with the centennial of the start of the First World War in August.
The students got to see the new Vimy Education Centre just starting construction at the Vimy Memorial, where a 22,000 square feet (1,850 square metres) facility will open for the centennial of the Battle at Vimy Ridge, April 9, 2017, and the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done so much in two weeks in my life,” Taylor said, adding that they still had time to get a sense of the big picture.
She said she was really struck by the absurdity of “the idea of a war of attrition,” referring to battles like Passchendaele, where hundreds of thousands died to gain less than a mile.”
“I realized how important it is to avoid future conflicts.”
Going into Grade 12, Taylor hasn’t made any decisions, but is considering various history related careers like anthropology and museum curation, adding, “what I’d really like to do is write, and I believe that a working knowledge of modern history is incredibly important for any kind of writing.”
For more on the foundation and Beaverbrook prize, which was supported by the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation and EF Educational Tours, visit www.vimyfoundation.ca/Beaverbrook.