Students and faculty traveling the globe together is not necessarily a new phenomenon. In 2010, Spanish teacher Manuel Nuñez started taking students and teachers to Nicaragua in what began as a cultural exchange but evolved into an expanded initiative that provided support to a sister school in Managua and advocacy for a pediatric cancer hospital called La Mascota.
Travel transforms how students, and all people, understand community, which is why the immersive experiences of travel within and outside the United States have become as essential to Prep’s Global Studies program as its interdisciplinary curriculum.
“Over the last few years, in particular, and over the last decade, we’ve started to see the importance of bringing global awareness into our curriculum and to try and encourage our students to think about being global citizens,” says Ingrid Herskind, Prep’s Global Studies Coordinator.
A result of a detailed planning process in forming the program is that Prep’s global experiences are called projects, not trips. The projects promote engaged learning, active curiosity and opportunities to build connections across borders and oceans. The inaugural projects each had a specific focus curated by the faculty leaders and Herskind to complement and enhance curriculum, yet students were free to approach their travels with their own diverse viewpoints and goals.
- A science trip to Arizona last spring let students become biodiversity researchers for a week (read more in the Summer 2019 issue of PrepTalk).
- Student artists, art teachers Ricardo Rodriguez and Melissa Manfull and Spanish teachers Fabian Bejarano and Nuñez explored the connections between artistic and political expression in Cuba, visiting artists’ homes and local galleries.
- Eighteen students and three faculty, including Herskind, physics teacher Reid Fritz and English teacher CI Shelton, traveled across China. Students learned about Chinese development and identity, sharing their impressions in daily discussions and blog posts.
- French teacher Dr. Lauren Van Arsdall and French and Latin teacher Toby Wagstaff led students through French cultural and language immersion across Paris, the Loire Valley and Normandy.
With a dedicated home for the Global Studies Initiative in the Bachmann Collaboration Building coming this fall, Herskind notes that the space will act as an idea incubator, encouraging more curricular innovation across campus, as well as fueling more global projects.
This summer, a new batch of students and faculty will have the opportunity to explore ideas, issues, policies and cultures in various locales. This June, small groups will learn about history and migration in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia; biodiversity and changing ecosystems in the Andorran Pyrenees; Chinese identity and US-China relations in rural Western China; creating art within the Cuban political and social climate in Havana; and service and sustainability in Mexico City.
The inaugural global travel projects have reverberated throughout campus this past school year. Student reflections about their experiences after returning to campus are as diverse as the students who went on these excursions.
Jahselyn Medina ’21
“Art is everywhere in Cuba. I got to realize how important art is to their culture. I wanted to create a dance [for Prep’s Cuba Art exhibit in November 2019] inspired by Cuban music. I wanted to embody my experience in Cuba and what I learned, and… incorporate my Latin roots and my own style into the dance. [This past fall,] we recorded a video at the [Bachmann Collaboration Building] construction site because we wanted it to be in an industrial setting. In Cuba, people are refrained from doing certain things because the government regulates them on a daily basis. They have to go out of their way to host private exhibits and shows, so I wanted to show that…you don’t need to have a studio to dance in, as long as you have the passion and drive.”
Germaine Harvey ’20
Excerpt from Germaine’s journals written throughout the trip.
“Day 1 – Cuba Trip: Traveling + Arrival
Immediately outside the airport I was overwhelmed by the smell of cigars and the fumes being emitted from their old style cars/buses that were on the streets. We had a contact of Mr. R [Rodriguez] drive us to the hostel where we would be staying and I took plenty of pictures on the way there of the tons of greenery, muddy streets from previous rain, people riding horses/carriages, baseball stadium, the location where Che would give his long speeches. This place is truly amazing!”
Leon Kuo ’21
“I’ve always wanted to go to China because I thought it would be interesting to visit the country of my ancestors and to see what China was like for myself. Due to the animosities between Taiwan and China, I felt like I was only seeing one perspective when my family members told me about their travels….I noticed that there was a great disparity with the aggressive calls from the Chinese government to tong yi Taiwan (“unite Taiwan back into the mainland”) and the hospitable interactions I had during my trip. It is unreasonable to judge the character of the people of a country based on the actions of its government.”
Irene Jang ’20
“Before the trip and as we went through the provinces, we were able to get a historical background of what we’ll be seeing, where we’ll be going. Getting that context was something that really solidified the experience as not a touristy trip, but an educational experience that we were truly able to appreciate and become more informed about each community.”
Sam Walton ’20
“It was my first trip out of the country, so it was an exciting experience for me….I saw this as more a cultural and history trip. Normandy was unique for me, because my grandfather was actually a part of the D-Day landing forces, so my parents wanted me to especially take in the beaches from WWII and WWII history.”
Dr. Lauren Van Arsdall, French teacher
“What we heard from students was that they could easily recognize the similarities between Paris and Los Angeles because there was this familiarity of being in a diverse, cosmopolitan city. Yet, when they were in the countryside, they didn’t experience that same sense of familiarity. Also, many people don’t speak English like they do in Paris. It was a whole new experience for them be in these familiar and unfamiliar places that are both within the same country.”