This past spring break, the Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) commissioned four trips around the world. The goal of these trips is to give Upper School students a new outlook on the world, develop new leadership and communication skills and create student leaders. To reach this goal, each trip has three focus areas they follow. These tours are a huge learning experience for any students attending, being able to see so many communities different from the United States. This past spring break, the ICGL visited Ecuador, Thailand, Basque Country Spain and the United Arab Emirates. 

The Ecuador trip spent the week exploring the High Andes region of Ecuador led by US Science Teacher Ben Ewing and Associate Director of the ICGL, Ted Ward, focusing on water and sustainability, outdoor adventure and leadership development. They spent most of their time in the wilderness, camping and cooking. On their first day, students visited a local Ecuadorian farm and tried local cuisine. The majority of this trip was occupied by backpacking in the mountains of Ecuador, having five days dedicated to hiking, where students constantly struggled with getting stuck in the mud. One day, students commissioned a 7-mile hike and got to the summit of a mountain range. Lastly, they made their way down to the Amazon River Basin to white water rafting. “My favorite part was when we went water rafting in part of the Amazon River. It was gorgeous scenery and a fun and new experience,” says Junior Sydney Lettes.  

The trip to the United Arab Emirates focused on water systems, religion and regional cultures. Pace students, led by US English Teacher Jason Brooks and US Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Nikki McCrary, spent their first day visiting the Palm Islands and the Mall of Emirates. On the second day of their trip, students visited sites such as the Women’s Museum, the Gold Souk, the Spice Souk and the Burj Khalifa in the heart of Dubai. “My favorite part of the trip was when we visited the Burj Khalifa. We went to the top and the view was amazing. I got to take so many pictures,” says Sophomore Tyler Swartz. 

Throughout the rest of their trip, students visited the International Humanitarian City, the world’s largest hub for distributing aid to people in human-created crises and natural disasters and discussed many important issues regarding water. Students also spent some time in the desert on this trip off-roading, riding camels and camping in the desert. After leaving the desert, the trip visited the Zayed Foundation, where they learned about sustainability initiatives, and then explored the process of water desalination in a factory. Students finished off their trip exploring the capital city, Abu Dhabi, visiting sites like the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. 

Over in the Basque Country, US World Language Teachers Jenna Dwyer and Alison Riley led a trip focusing on Spanish language, cultural immersion, and sustainability. Students started their trip off strong visiting the Museo Reina Sofia and visiting host families in Pamplona. “Staying with these Spanish host families was my favorite part of the trip. It was great to be in the Basque culture and see what their lives are like first-hand,” says Sophomore Braylon Cambor. Students also spent time walking the Etapa De Santiago. Since Basque Country borders both Spain and France, students were able to spend a day in Biarritz, France, and take in the sights with students from the British School of Navarra. Students also took a couple of classes in this school regarding intercultural competency. 

Students were able to take part in the cuisine side of Basque Country, being able to visit markets to buy food and take cooking classes, learning how to make Talos, a traditional Basque meal, and sustainable homemade cheese. Next, students visited a cave system, Arrikutz, and a famous church, Arrantazu. To finish off their trip, students visited the coastal town of Donosti to see the water before leaving. 

Lastly, the Thailand trip focused on water systems, regional cultures and Buddhism led by Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Joanne Beauvoir Brown and Director of College Counseling Jonathan Ferrell. The trip started in Bangkok, the first and second days consisted of students exploring the city, visiting Buddhist temples and learning the significance of canals. “My favorite part of Thailand was when I got to explore several different Buddhist temples because they were so different from anything I have ever seen,” states Junior Peter Webb.

Students spent the third day learning about the NGO, Scholars of Sustenance Foundation, and what they do to enhance the food system in Thailand. Next, students made their way from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi and hiked the waterfall trails at Erawan National Park. Students spent a little more time on their fifth day learning about the history of Kanchanaburi, visiting the Thailand-Burma Railway Center, the War Cemetery, and the River Kwai. On the sixth day, students made their way to Ayutthaya and learned about Buddhism and meditation from a monk and toured a monastery. The trip finished by making its way back to Bangkok for the trip home.

Students in Ayutthaya pose in front of a Buddhist temple. Photo: Pace Academy

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.