The International Studies Program at Canterbury is dedicated to teaching our students to become true global citizens. We do this by participating in various cultural events at our school and around the state, as well as engaging in international interactions, like exchange programs, international community service, and international travel opportunities. The International Studies Program mantra is “ Canterbury touches our world”.
This Spring Break I had the pleasure of taking eleven of our Canterbury high school students on the ultimate learning experience: a two-part cultural voyage. First, we went on an exciting, historical adventure in Rome and Florence. Everything that the students have learned about Ancient Rome in school, they witnessed with their own eyes and walked with their own footsteps.. I watched as our students embraced this culture and history with both arms. They touched the walls of the Colosseum, drank the clean tap water in Rome, tasted all of the different foods offered, and ate enough gelato to last them a year. It was thrilling for me to watch them trying to speak Italian through it all.
The second part of the trip was the ultimate cultural encounter. Canterbury students engaged in a true exchange with students from the Lycée Albert 1er in Monaco, a prestigious high school founded in 1910 by Albert II and was attended by the current Prince of Monaco, Albert II. Their teachers and I had been planning and preparing for months to ensure that this was a successful exchange. Using a questionnaires, we paired the students with host families based on their common interests. Grade 9 student Mackenzie S. commented that she and her Monegasque partner were like sisters. "It was a perfect match,” she recalled.
On the bus departing from Italy and approaching Monaco, I could feel the excitement increase in nervous anticipation of finally meeting their exchange partners with whom they had been texting for weeks. The first night of their homestay I received a 'thumbs up' text from everyone, and the next morning when we all met together at the school, there were smiles all around.
Those five nights in Monaco were truly magical because I saw each of our students transform into global citizens. They were growing in their self-confidence by speaking French with the host families, ordering food in French, and navigating public transportation in another country. They were culturally sensitive and accepting of a different way of thinking and doing things, like even saying 'hello' with French bises (a kiss on both cheeks). Our students made fast friends without cultural boundaries, and it wasn't long before the group as a whole had formed a bond. There was no more us and them, it was we. This newly forged network of friends formed a group chat, and they have continued to “chat” every day since we’ve returned. Their mutual desire to create International friendships and share their cultures was inspiring.
The world is growing in its demand for globally-minded people, and one of the best ways to achieve this is through travel and exploration. The skills acquired through travel are some of the most valuable in the world, such as independence, networking, and multilingualism. Through travel, one has the opportunity to see first-hand the things learned in school and put into practice the skills acquired. A person can gain a global perspective and a strong independence that no other teaching method can provide. Travel teaches tolerance, self-sufficiency, and resourcefulness, as well. These key skills will be vital to our International Studies students for the rest of their lives.
"My favorite part of the experience was hanging out with the Monegasque kids every day and experiencing the cultural differences."
"I think the most important takeaway from this trip was that it's so important to travel and experience other cultures because the rest of the world is so different from America."
"I learned that I can see myself living in Europe one day and that it’s somewhere I fit in and enjoy being."
"The most important “take-away” I got from this trip was the importance of submerging myself into other different cultures and languages and learning all about other people's lifestyles."
"I want to share a video I made of our amazing time there because I can’t possibly put into words how amazing this trip is every year."
"I learned that though someone is from a different country or culture, they are still the same as you and go through similar things that you do. I also learned that some people are [quite different than you think] when you take the time to get to know them."
See more photos of the International Studies trip to Italy and Monaco on SmugMug.