These kids are really going places

Colette Combs, Editor

During March break, dozens of Pingree students set out across the world on exchange trips for Pingree’s “Learning Across Borders” program. This year, the trips included Spain, France, and Taiwan, and gave students a unique opportunity to live with the family of an international student and become immersed in that culture.

We all remember when the Spanish and Taiwanese students were here at Pingree. From the Spanish students’ touching farewell speech to the mesmerizing talent show performed by the Taiwanese students, our international visitors can not soon be forgotten. And even though we have not yet had the opportunity to meet the French exchange students, who will be here April 23rd – May 3rd, it is all but guaranteed that they will leave the same lasting mark on our community as exchange students of the past. We know that these international students made a strong impression on us, but what impression did our students leave on them, and what, other than souvenirs, did Pingree students bring home?     

Grace Miller ‘19 was one of several lucky students who traveled to Taiwan for her Spring Break. Miller spoke fondly of her experience, especially of her host student and family. “It took some time to get adjusted to living in someone’s home. Even culturally, how you act around the house is different. For example, I had to wear house shoes. It got to a point where I was comfortable and I could tell they were comfortable with me living in their home.” Additionally, Miller was excited to share what she had learned on the trip, stating that “I learned more about Taiwanese culture- specifically food. I am a super picky eater but I tried many seemingly obscure foods.” Miller continued to list some of the unique foods she tried, including chicken foot, rice burger, spicy pig’s blood, chicken’s heart, egg pie, and Taiwanese shaved ice. What Miller misses most about Taiwan is the the people she met. Miller reflected, saying “I’ll definitely miss spending time with my host student, her family, and her friends from school. I also miss the bubble tea. It was weird because, towards the end, I found myself thinking in Chinese and speaking it more. Even now that I’m back in Meiguo, (America) I still find myself thinking in Chinese sometimes.” In terms of making a lasting impression, Miller and the other Pingree students learned a traditional aboriginal Taiwanese dance, which they performed in front of the school’s 3,000 students toward the end of their trip.

Kate Haas ‘19 traveled to Spain on her Spring Break and stayed with a family in Barcelona. Speaking on her host family, Haas says “They were very accommodating and made me feel very at home.” Haas had the unique opportunity to live with another Pingree student, Hanna Walker ‘19, as their exchange students were twins. “I felt more comfortable because I wasn’t on my own in a foreign country. I always had someone to rely on.” Haas’s favorite part of the trip was visiting the beach because it was outside of the city and a great way to spend their last day together bonding and enjoying Spain’s beautiful natural landscape. Haas’s biggest take away from the trip was that it is a great place to strengthen your foreign language. “I got to observe actual conversations and get better at listening. I got to actually hear how people use the grammar that I’ve learned in class and the phrases they use and don’t use.”

Emma Greaves ‘18 went on the Pingree exchange trip to France. Greaves noted that she really enjoyed the linguistics aspect of the trip. She commented on this, saying, “my host mom didn’t speak any English and while it was challenging at first it became really rewarding because we got really close and we’re there for such a short period of time that it’s important to treat each day like it’s your last one there.” She reflected on her favorite moments of the trip, recalling that “Our first day we went on a boat tour, and on the last night we all went out to dinner together. It was a really nice way to seal the trip, especially since we had all gotten so close on the trip.” When asked what she was most looking forward to when the French students come to Pingree, she responded, “I’m really excited for them that they’ll get to practice their English in a place with such a strong American accent because that was such a great experience in France and I’m sure it goes both ways. Other than that, I’m just really excited to see them all again because they’re all such amazing people.”   

Pingree’s Learning Across Borders has supplied Pingree students with international learning opportunities for years. All of the students featured in this article enjoyed their time immensely and would recommend all students try and participate in one before their time ends at Pingree. Registration for next year’s exchange trips will be starting soon, so make sure to fill out an application if you are interested. In her final remarks, Haas noted about exchange trips that “It’s a great experience to meet new friends, practice the language you’re studying, and learn about a new culture.”