Upper Division International Travel

May 15, 2015

This spring, upper school students traveled to Europe and Vietnam. Ninth grade students traveled to Germany and France as part of their curriculum. Some eleventh grade students took part in an optional spring break trip to Vietnam.

We had the opportunity to travel to Germany and France with most of the 9th grade. Travelling through the countryside on a bus between Berlin and Paris, we stopped in Weimar for a few hours and spent a night in Heidelberg. These midpoints were real highlights for all of us. Students spent time recording their thoughts and reactions to the places we visited. These responses were posted on the Lightpost, the upper school online newspaper. Link: http://lightpost.marymcdowell.net/ You can also find great photos of the trip on the Light post. Many students showed their curiosity and interest in learning and practiced speaking German and French. The bravery, growth, and resilience that each student demonstrated on our travels was impressive. As educators, we were able to capitalize on countless opportunities for curricular connections. For example, we spent an afternoon in Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp north of Berlin. Having just finished our study of the Holocaust and our reading of Night by Elie Wiesel, students and adults had intense, profound experiences walking those grounds. We finished our trip to Sachsenhausen by having a Quaker Meeting outside the wall. The messages people shared illustrated the depth and enormity of our shared experience. It is a day that we will remember. Those students who stayed back from the trip had a wonderful time filling their week with an exploration of all New York City has to offer. They were eager to share with us their adventures and some of them seemed reluctant to have us come home, since they were having so much fun. We hope you take the opportunity to read what students had to say on the Lightpost. We had laughs and we had tears, sometimes at the same time. The trip was a truly remarkable chance to learn and explore together.
– Barbara von Salis, Upper Division Teacher, 20th Century World History, and Quaker Faith and Practice

Over spring break, fourteen MMFS students and five chaperones travelled to the other side of the globe to experience a nation whose recent history is intimately intertwined with that of our own. Vietnam is a dynamic, multifaceted country that is undergoing rapid change. After more than 20 hours of flights and layovers, our group began our journey in Hanoi. While the capital is becoming increasingly modern and congested with mopeds, it retains the charm and romantic feel that could once be felt in any number of post-colonial cities. It was only fitting that we commenced our visit to the city with a visit to the ancient national university, heavily influenced by Chinese Confucianism and its reverence for education and order. We concluded our visit to Hanoi with a warm welcome by the students, faculty, and administration of a local school. We then travelled south to the smaller cities of Hoi An and Hue, each of which played important roles in the history and culture of Vietnam. We ultimately ended our trip to Ho Chi Minh City. Moving south brought us closer to the preponderance/predominance of Buddhism, a series of looks at the terrible conflict from 1955 to 1975 that caused the suffering, and anguish of soldiers and civilians across the region and the Pacific. At each step of the way, students impressed us with their maturity, eagerness to learn, and resilience as travelers. The intrepid fourteen travelled farther than any MMFS group ever had before, on what was one of the most remarkable experiences of their education to date. They were outstanding ambassadors for their school, city, and nation.
By Kirk Smothers, Upper Division Director

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