- Beyond the Classroom
- Building Character
This is a picture of me and my friend Marcus on a hike last week in the mountains outside of Oberursal, a suburb of Frankfurt, Germany. I met Marcus 21 years ago while studying on a foreign exchange in Coleraine, Northern Ireland (he was also an exchange student there). Since then, we’ve visited each other several times. I hadn’t spoken to Marcus in 16 years, but when we met up it was like old times. We played pool, hiked, had burgers at a local festival. We laughed and reminisced.
I gained a lot from my experience as a foreign exchange student. Not only did I meet a lifelong friend, but I learned how to adapt, be flexible, accept others’ differences, communicate beyond language barriers, and appreciate world cultures. It was a completely mind-opening experience. So when I got the chance to chaperone a trip through DCDS’s Global Communities program, I jumped at the opportunity.
The two-week trip to the Gymnasium Oberursal was a huge success. Students attended classes at one of the top schools in the Frankfurt region, had immersive language experiences in homestays with German families, learned valuable cultural and historical lessons on various field trips, and made lifelong friends with their German host students.
DCDS gives students many opportunities to travel and learn about the world. The DCDS Global Communities program organizes trips to Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and many other places. The Outdoor Adventure Club offers experiences all over the world. And the Global Youth Leadership Initiative is a three-year track with summer trips planned every year. These trips bring students to the forefront of experiential learning.
“Exchange trips provide a unique opportunity for students to step outside of their comfort zone,” states last year's Global Scholars Program Coordinator L’Meese Greaney. “The students eat new foods, see new sights, and navigate conversations and friendships in new environments. All this while learning about themselves and other cultures, in the comfort and safety of traveling with schoolmates and faculty. The experience allows for personal growth, cultural competence, and valuable and wonderful memories that will truly last a lifetime.”
My favorite part of the trip to Germany was talking to the kids about their experiences, seeing how much their perspectives changed in such a short period of time. I can’t help but think back to my own exchange trip, the friends I made, how it opened my mind and changed me forever. When I see these kids smiling, I know the reason why is the gift they’ve just been given.