During the summer, Upper School students were given the opportunity to partake in international trips around the globe under the Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) study tours. The goal of these trips is to create global leaders by enhancing their curiosity on real-world issues, interact with different cultures in hands-on experiences and develop leadership and communication skills outside of a typical classroom. After these tours, students have a better understanding of how to tackle worldly challenges and ways to facilitate change whether that be big or small. During the months of June and July, our Pace Knights traveled abroad to Bolivia, Iceland, Greece and a two-in-one trip to England and France.
Led by College Counselor Pam Ambler and US Computer Science teacher Charlie Bryant, students explored the magnificent natural landscapes of Iceland from June 7 to the 17. With a basis on culture and sustainability, they learned about Icelandic Sagas, prose narratives based on Icelandic historical events, and the country’s renewable energy.
Starting off strong in a town called Borgarnes, trying Icelandic dishes was a must followed by a lesson about one of the Icelandic Sagas’ best-known heroes, Egil. On day two, students ventured through the dramatic scenes of Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano in western Iceland, and then headed for Reykjavik the following day where a majority of the trip took place. Students toured Rekyjavik’s renewable energy sources with a visit to the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant, shedding a new perspective on sustainability and climate. Kayaking through the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, students continued their exploration into climate by seeing floating icebergs and learning about the current efforts to protect the Earth’s natural resources.
Continuing to trek through Iceland’s natural beauties, the group hiked Skógafoss, one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls located on the Skógá River. Lots of pictures were taken and even a rainbow made an appearance to an already breathtaking setting! On one of the last days, students put on dry suits and snorkeled along the continental divide into the depths of Thingvellir National Park’s waters at a temperature of two degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily the dry suits did the trick and kept everyone warm even if they did look a little silly! Transitioning from cold to hot waters, swimming in the waters of the Blue Lagoon was a relaxing end to a very exciting trip.
“I hope students harnessed the power of the Earth and have a better insight into the ways we can utilize geothermal energy to help preserve our climate. I also hope they appreciated the natural beauties of Iceland and really took in the grandness of it all,” said Mr. Bryant.
From July 18 to July 28, students ventured through England and France led by US History Chairperson Mr. Hornor, US Math teacher Jason Smith and US Math teacher Krista Wilhelmsen. With a heavy focus on history and art, the trip started off in London, England touring the famous British Museum in the afternoon. The other days in London were filled with tours at Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Churchill’s War Rooms, the Imperial War Museum and other fabulous historical sites. Students also got to see the London Eye, shop at Harrods Department Store and enjoy an evening show in a theater in the city.
On day six, traveling on the Eurostar Express kicked off the second half of the trip to France. In Paris, some of the highlights were visiting the stunning tourist attractions of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and of course the Eiffel Tower. A day trip was spent touring Normandy Cemetery and walking along Omaha Beach, a site of war used in the World War II D-Day invasion where many American soldiers lost their lives. Ending the trip off, students traveled to and toured the gardens, grounds and palace at Versailles, the former residence built by King Louis XIV.
“This trip was truly a blast. I so enjoyed getting to know all of the students and watching the group together as a whole. I think that students learn best outside of classrooms and that these students came back as worldly citizens having experienced and engaged in cultures that they couldn’t experience at home,” said Mrs. Wilhelmsen.
Chaperoned by Dean of Student Academics Mrs. Lawrence and US Science teacher Dr. Kazi, the Greece trip was centered around the themes of global migration and democracy in light of the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. On June 5, students headed for Greece and started their explorations at the historical Athens Centre, taking a tour of the Acropolis, going on a guided walk in Neos Kosmos and satisfying their appetites with Feyrouz Turkish/Greek Street Food.
Hopping on another plane to Southern Lesbos, students arrived on the Greek island and explored its capital Mytilini, the primary hub of Greek migration. Days were spent interacting with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that help recently arrived refugees find a permanent place to settle and feel comfortable. By the continuation of violence in Syria, Lesbos is a primary site of forced Syrian refugee migration so they can reach countries like Turkey and Germany in hopes of finding economic opportunities. Students saw remnants of refugee camps and catched a personal glimpse into the lives of those fleeing in search of stability and freedom.
Back in Athens, Greece, the trip ended with a continuation of guided tours of historical sites, climbing Mount Lycabettus and walking through the Plaka, the oldest section of Athens. “It was a heavy trip to some extent because of the refugee crisis, and I think when you are experiencing it firsthand, it can feel very hopeless because you can’t control what’s happening here. I think that a lot of students walked away feeling like they could make a difference which is so powerful,” said Mrs. Lawrence.
From June 4 to June 13, US World Language teacher Laura Agront-Hobbs, US Visual and Performing Arts teacher Donnice Bloodworth and US Science teacher Allison Tarvin led a trip to Bolivia, focusing on the country’s perspectives of wealth and culture. At roughly 12,000 feet above sea level, students arrived at the capital of Bolivia in La Paz, the city with the highest elevation in the world. On the first day, touring the Freddy Mamani Silvestre buildings was an exciting experience to learn about the city’s unique architecture. On the following day, students took a day trip to Copacabana, taking a pottery class and walking around the streets of the town.
Immersing themselves in Bolivia’s natural beauties, going to the Uyuni Salt Flats, Lake Titicaca and hiking the Andes Mountains was an out-of-this-world experience for everyone. The Potosi Mountain was also another natural wonder with historical significance regarding Bolivia’s economy. Most of the world’s silver was mined from Potosi, and the Spanish conquistadors came to Bolivia for that silver to bring back to Spain many years ago, robbing Bolivia of their wealth. As a result, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America.
Towards the end of the trip, students explored Sucre, the capital of Bolivia. Many enjoyed their walks along the streets bursting with vibrant shops and markets and gaining insight into the daily structures of Bolivians. “It was interesting to see how people in Bolivia choose to live simple lives. Our guide told us that they have the greatest amount of minerals in the world, and they could be a very rich country if they chose to sell the minerals. However, because of what happened with the conquistadors 200 years ago, they choose not to work with other countries and so everything that they do is to build their own country to protect themselves and be self-sufficient,” said Mrs. Tarvin.