“I have wandered all my life, and I have traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” - Hilaire Belloc
If the Anglo-French writer and historian Hilaire Belloc was correct, then students, taking part in the first year of ParishAbroad, definitely traveled this summer. More than 25 students and faculty went to Spain and France for cultural and language immersion, and to India as a part of the Global Leadership Program.
“Our participating students have a stronger sense of self, as well as knowledge and respect for the rich and diverse cultures that they visited,” said Rick Dunn, Director of ParishAbroad.
The program enables students to pursue learning opportunities in foreign countries through purposeful and meaningful travel experiences with faculty members. These immersive programs seek to raise our students’ global competency and prepare them for a life of critical, ethical and global thinking. ParishAbroad is one of the newest in a long line of innovative and successful signature programs at Parish.
“It definitively prepares students to become creative learners in an environment that is very different than a normal day in Dallas,” added Dunn.
INDIA – GLOBAL LEADERSHIP PROGRAM
In June, a team of 14 students, led by Rick Dunn and Upper School English teacher, Kyle Vaughn, traveled to India for 11 days to take part in ParishAbroad’s Global Leadership Program. This program, in partnership with World Leadership School, seeks to empower young leaders through immersive experiences centered on global issues and leadership.
Faculty and students started their immersion in Indian Life and culture in Mumbai, one of the largest cities in the world. The day spent in Dharavi- a densely populated slum- was one of the most impactful parts of the program. Students toured the slum and witnessed the artisans and entrepreneurs working in recycling, garment, leather, and machinery businesses. They met and talked with generations of Dharavi workers and spent time at the Reality Tours community center interacting with local students.
“The efficiency within Dharavi made us wonder why it is considered a 'slum.' Everybody was working hard to get the rupees necessary to support their families,” blogged Raunak Trivedi, Class of ‘18 and Margot Siegel, Class of ‘17.
The program continued to Chinchoti, a small farming village south of Mumbai. Parish students and teachers stayed in the homes of Chinchoti residents, becoming a part of their families.
“They immersed themselves in the culture, investigating so many aspects of Chinchoti life with grace and curiosity,” said Vaughn.
Each day, students participated in classes designed to address local issues and leadership. They helped build a retaining wall on the school grounds and planned activities for local children that centered on art, academics and athletics. Although there was a language barrier, Parish students bridged the gap by playing games and sharing drawings with the kids.
“We learned that laughter can be the best form of communication,” Siegel added.
Chinchoti made a deep impact on the students and gave them a new perspective on the human spirit and where they are going in life.
“From so many of the stories that the kids have shared, it is clear that their leadership and global citizenship journeys are far from over,” noted Kyle Vaughn.
CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC IMMERSION – SPAIN AND FRANCE
The classroom lessons lifted off the page and came to life as students indulged their senses in the food, language and culture in Spain and France. They spoke a foreign language while preparing traditional meals, watched history go by as their boat sliced through the river Seine, and soaked in new experiences and museums.
A group of eight students and Assistant Head of Upper School, Andrew Jennings, enjoyed 16 days in San Sebastian, Spain. Homestay families gave students a taste of what “real” life is like in Spain. They spent four hours a day working on face-to-face conversations at Tandem Language School and really stretched their Spanish abilities.
“Success in classes and communication with homestay families improved steadily for our young travelers. Applying what they had learned in Spanish courses over the years helped them make a significant development in their language proficiency,” said Jennings.
During their off hours, students got a chance to cook, surf and hike. They also toured Madrid where they had the opportunity to see Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, at the Reina Sofia Museum. From there, they bussed northwest to the historic city of Segovia to the see the incredible Roman aqueducts. Plus, they made day trips to San Jean de Luz and Biarritz to visit a Basque museum and trekked to Bilbao to see the world famous, Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim museum and exhibits by Jeff Koons and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The immersion trip ended with an excursion to the beautiful fishing and farming village of Zumaia.
“Every day was full of physical activity and intellectual challenges. All in all, the experience was amazing, both fun and educational, “said Jennings.
Four Parish students, led by Upper School French teacher, Isobel Betzer, traveled to France to practice their language skills at Biarritz French Course Institute.
“We arrived in Paris and spent four days. We visited the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame, and took a boat ride on the river Seine,” said Betzer.
The group also spent one day at the Chateau de Versailles; touring the Royal Apartments, the Hall of Mirrors and walking through the estate’s beautiful gardens and fountains. There was also time to sample the sweeter side of France.
We ate a lot! Especially crepes and baguettes!” exclaimed Betzer.
Besides indulging in French cuisine, the group also hopped on the incredibly fast TGV train and zipped to Biarritz where they stayed with French families for two weeks.
“Parish students enjoyed interacting with their homestay families and felt they could live in Biarritz,” said Betzer.
There was also time for walking on the beach, kayaking, hiking, cooking and day trips to neighboring towns, including San Sebastian, Spain.
“The students improved their French and made lasting friendships with kids from all over the world. It was an unforgettable linguistic and cultural immersion experience,” said Betzer.
The travels will continue with more ParishAbroad adventures planned in the future. Next up: A European Cultural Program during Spring Break 2016 and a Global Leadership Program to Peru, summer of 2017.