Students and Teachers Share Summer Travelogues

CA’s Global Exchange offerings will expand this coming year to include a Middle School exchange in the Dominican Republic, and new Upper School programs in both England and Peru.

The new trips come on the heels of a successful 2015-16 program that saw a 20% increase in the number of students participating in global trips on eight different programs. The increase happened despite a year when political unrest forced the cancellation of one outbound exchange to Istanbul. That trip was postponed out of concern for students’ safety.

Still, the CA Global Travel and Exchange program is going strong. “You can’t sit at a computer and learn about the world,” says Daniel Lopez ’86, CA faculty member and Spanish Instructor, who also heads up the Global Travel Education Program (GTE).

“You have to go out into the world.” We want our kids to leave CA with a global perspective,” says Lopez, “and we can’t do that just in the classroom.”

Lopez, in fact, takes a global perspective about the importance of the program he oversees. “What has to happen in this world now,” he says, “are people making connections. CA is academically so strong; we encourage kids to make connections between what they are studying and what they see in their world.”

But, Lopez emphasizes, bringing another world back to “their world” is even more important. “In my Spanish class, students can talk more meaningfully about Spanish culture if they have been there.”

There is a Chinese saying that “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.” In accordance with that saying, 17 Colorado Academy Upper School Chinese language students spent two weeks last spring visiting the Yunnan Province in China. There, they immersed themselves in the culture by experiencing both rural and urban life. From looking at the stars in small villages to discovering the “immediate sense of the unknown,” here are field notes, sketches and photos from the students’ and teachers’ perspectives:

Walking back to the program house after a day of exploring the city, I became nervous thinking about the idea of living with a family that I have never met and much more importantly the communication divide. I would have never expected to create such a close and lasting relationship with a group of people from halfway around the world in just one week. We were each given minimal information prior to meeting our families. All I knew was that the father’s name was Shao Xiang, the mother’s name was Fang, and the 6-year-old son was named Zi Heng. I was also told that Shao Xiang worked at the Bank Of China, and Fang was a manager for a large company. The last information I was given was that during the weekends, they take one day to visit friends and for Zi Heng to study, and the other day to play piano and do sports. They often like to play basketball, football, Ping-Pong, badminton and to swim. As I waited in anticipation to meet my new family, I watched as Fang and Zi Heng walked through the door expressing the same suspense that I carried. After a week packed with great food, exciting conversations, and intense sports, I realized that I had created a bond that would not soon be forgotten. Nearly two months later, I still communicate daily with my host family, and just received a message the other day asking if I would want to return and stay with them again. They are currently making plans to come visit Colorado and experience our way of life, as I did theirs. Without the support of the chaperones and teachers on the trip I would not have been able to fully embrace the opportunities that led to this enduring connection.

From day one, authenticity and immersion greeted us at every turn. Squat toilets and boiled water inspired many stories and much laughter. The individual scavenger hunt in Kunming was a favorite adventure of mine because of the immediate sense of the unknown. Our challenge was to find the location written in Chinese on the given card using the mode of transportation listed and to become immersed into the local culture. Armed with our Chinese and what we had learned about the city in the past few days, our group dispersed in opposite directions. After speaking to and using some Chinese and hand gestures (and one nice lady who happened to speak English!), I found my way onto the correct, jam-packed bus and to my designated mystery location. From the bus stop, I stood in front of a side street covered with tarps and blankets hanging from trees. Tables upon tables in the fresh air filled with people of all ages under the colorful coverings. It was slightly intimidating at first, but as I stepped into the midst of tables, I found myself in a warm, friendly Mahjiang center with people playing Mahjiang and cards everywhere. A few steps into the center, a group of three people asked if I was interested in joining their game. I was happily surprised, so with a smile, I nodded eagerly and asked if they would teach me. With my new friends laughing — with me and at me — they tried to teach me Mahjiang while speaking only Chinese. They were patient and friendly, and lots of fun. Despite being a foreigner, they welcomed me and made me feel like a “local.” As our game came to an end, I said “zai jian” and made the trek back to the program house, where everyone was buzzing with stories from their adventures.

When I think of my CA China experience, I think of adventure. I think of making delicious dumplings with my homestay family and trying to eat rice noodles with chopsticks, hoping to land them in my mouth instead of my lap. I think of learning Mahjiang with the locals and performing Tai Chi with a master. These are just a few of the memories that remind me of an unforgettable trip.

Sue Counterman, Middle School Teacher
Embarking on the CA Middle School Summer Peruvian Hearts and Amazon trip, we arrived bleary-eyed in Cusco to begin our experience. We were met at the airport by a group of the Peruvian Scholars and Danny Dodson, the Executive Director of Peruvian Hearts. His sister Ana, also a CA alumna who teaches in CA’s Lower School, is the founder of the Peruvian Hearts organization.

Student Jordan Davis says, “The most moving part of our trip was getting to visit the Peruvian Hearts girls. The young women of Peruvian hearts are a group of highly motivated and exceptional students who have won scholarships for higher education. These women are often the first in their families to attend college. To see strong independent women working so hard to reach their goals were awe-inspiring. They made up for their lack of opportunity with courage, determination and hard work.”

The girls empowerment program run by Peruvian Hearts provides vital support to impoverished girls who are motivated and driven students who are determined to break the cycle of poverty to become agents of change for their families and communities. These girls often lack self-confidence when they first join the program, but through mentorship, character building workshops, and support from program staff and participants, the girls learn new ways o overcome their difficulties and challenges.

The day that we visited several of the girls’ homes in Izcuchaca, we had a first-hand look at the challenges that the girls have faced to get where they are today. David Ortiz, the proud father of Lady Margarita, Peruvian Hearts scholar, was our driver and opened the world of the Peruvian Scholars to the CA group with his testimonial of the life-changing experience for entire families due to Peruvian Hearts.

At the gathering at the Peruvian Hearts apartment and home base for the girls in Cusco, they each shared their aspirations and dreams for the future. What an exceptional group of talented and determined young ladies! Their fields of study range from chemical engineering, mining engineering, archaeology, mathematics, and economics to accounting, the culinary arts, tourism, law, psychology, business administration, education, and medicine. Each and every girl talked about giving back and supporting their families when they finish the program.
One young woman stood up and said that without Peruvian Hearts, she would surely not be in school and would instead be working in the fields today, as her mother does every day. Several of us choked back tears. Earlier in the day, we visited Munaychay, a children’s home high above the town of Urumbamba and on our way there we saw women bent over, working in the dry wheat fields.

Upon my return from the first successful Peruvian Hearts program this past summer (2016) I have had the opportunity to reflect on how lucky I am to have had such exceptional role models as former students Danny and Ana. I am honored to have been in a position to learn from them. My hope is that this is the beginning of a long collaboration between CA and Peruvian Hearts. The motto of Peruvian Hearts is “changing the world, one heart at a time.” Count me in the number of hearts changed.