Integral to Chapin’s mission is a vigorous commitment to empowering confident, compassionate global citizens. This dedication was in full swing over the summer when four Upper School students had the incredible opportunity to immerse themselves in another country’s culture, history and customs.
On June 8, the students – all members of Class 11 – journeyed to Argentina to take part in the second half of a vibrant exchange program that brought their Argentine “sisters” to Chapin last winter. The students spent the next three weeks (June 8-29) living and learning in Buenos Aires, the thriving capital city. (Chapin also participates in an exchange program with St. Hilda's Anglican School for Girls in Perth, Australia.)
“This trip did a great job of combining the social, academic and cultural aspects into one experience,” one of the participants noted. “I was able to have a typical day at a coed school and then in the evening I visited different parts of Buenos Aires.”
The foursome lived in the homes of their exchange student “partners,” whom they had hosted in New York last February, and attended classes at Northlands School, a large bilingual IB (International Baccalaureate) institution with subjects taught in Spanish and English,located on two campuses in the northern part of the city. After school, their host families took them on a variety of sightseeing excursions.
“The students had the opportunity to experience life as an adolescent from Buenos Aires, participating in school activities, having family meals and navigating the city and its public transportation,” commented Chapin’s World Languages teacher Dr. Yolanda Martín, who chaperoned the group.
Among the places the students visited were Plaza de Mayo, the central city square; Casa Rosada, the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina (Mauricio Macri); La Recoleta Cemetery, where a host of notable people are buried; the San Telmo Market,a historic indoor bazaar that sells everything from antiques to coffee; and Cafe Tortoni, the iconic French-style cafe that opened in 1858.
In addition to outings with their host families, “Northlands School took us, as well as exchange students visiting from Dallas and Baltimore, on a tour of the city instead of going to school one day, which was really great,” said another participant in the program. “Everyone was very welcoming and was very excited to share their community and culture with us,” she added.
The Chapin students enjoyed the direct engagement this exchange program provided and embraced the chance to learn as much as they could about Buenos Aires and its residents. “I think the overall experience of being in a completely different place with an unfamiliar culture but doing everyday activities, such as attending school and spending time with friends, was a really interesting dynamic,” remarked a student. “The ability to spend three weeks assimilated in a different way of life is a very unique experience I am so glad I got the opportunity to participate in.”
Others expressed similarly positive impressions about their weeks in Argentina. “My exchange partner lived with her parents as well as a younger sister and an older brother, which was different for me, as I am an only child,” one said. “I was also fortunate enough to meet my host’s extended family and many of her friends. My host family, as well as the other girls’, were very accommodating and took us to places they wanted us to see whenever we got a chance.”
Another student remarked, “I don’t travel very much, so getting to see how people live outside of New York City, especially students our age, was really interesting. I enjoyed sightseeing and trying all of the delicious food that Buenos Aires had to offer.”
For a third, her lasting impressions of the exchange included “having a chance to immerse into and experience a new culture,” in addition to “hosting someone who I have never met before at my house, then living with her family in her house,and learning about other governments and economies.”
By all accounts, the Chapin-Northlands program resulted in deeply rewarding experiences for these four Class 11 students, whose three weeks in Buenos Aires certainly broadened their perspectives and piqued their interest in further international travel.
“I would definitely like to return to Argentina as well as other places abroad. Exchanges are such an interesting way to experience a new culture and immerse yourself in a different way of life. I learned so much from this program,” said a student.
Another participant added, “my three weeks in Argentina will always be cherished as one of the most significant trips I have ever been on!”