FOR PARENTS AND FRIENDS OF PHILLIPS EXETER ACADEMY
Why go somewhere else for an Exeter education? Because every year students find themselves having "a great Exeter experience" leagues away from Exeter, NH. According to Susan Keeble, administrator of off-campus programs and associate dean of faculty, Exeter offers a greater variety of off-campus programs than most high schools. Some planning with respect to college applications and distribution requirements allows students to leave campus without sacrificing intellectual rigor, especially three- and four-year students. Those who go off campus often return with perspectives, interests and personal connections they may never have had, all of which enrich Exeter's classrooms.
Most, though not all, of Exeter's off-campus programs are language-centered and involve a significant period of home stay with a local family. These programs are not, Keeble is quick to note, just for the strongest language students, but also for the students who stand to gain the most from being immersed in another culture and language. These may be students with modest ability in a language. With respect to making selections for off-campus participants, Keeble says, "Overall, we are looking for students who are independent, open minded, adaptable and who will represent the school in a positive light."
Alex Solomon '02, a participant in this year's Washington Intern Program, emphasizes that the semester-long program is not only for students whose main interests are history or government (though government happens to be his abiding interest). Solomon, who was assigned to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office, says he couldn't resist the opportunity to be in the midst of where policy is made. "Not many Americans have the opportunity to talk about the farm bill or campaign finance reform with Senator Daschle's legislative director," he points out. "It's almost unheard of for a high school student to have that opportunity." Solomon points out that the intern experience for Exeter and Andover students in the spring is a much more intimate one than that of the thousands of college and graduate school interns that work in the summer.
cultures, new perspectives
For many Academy language teachers, nothing matches the experience of teaching a foreign language in the country in which it is spoken. Not only does it afford them the opportunity to hone their own language skills in context-even native speakers-but it is a chance to gather course material for use at Exeter. Also, says French instructor Evelyn Christoph, "Seeing kids get excited about my passion is the most gratifying professional experience I can imagine." Christoph, who has led the term abroad program in Grenoble three times, has photographed a multitude of quotidian details while there-subway stations, grocery stores, market stalls, the contents of kitchen cupboards-to use in the classroom, and she enjoys catching up on current trends in the language and culture. All the same, she says, "You can try to teach 'culture' in the classroom through slides and television, etc., but students don't recognize it as culture until they encounter it in the country. Culture is politics, people's views, food, government, electricity, gas, water-all of these thing take on new meanings when you go to a place which doesn't experience things the way we do in America."
new kind of Exeter connection
According to Christoph, one of the greatest riches of a home-stay experience for students is the chance to participate in a foreign family's hobbies and expeditions. Moore visited the metals business that his Spanish host father owns and operates. One of the Grenoble hosts is a violinmaker who taught his Exeter "son" some of his craft. Another French family took their Exonian guest on a camping trip with an overnight stay in a traditional rustic mountain "refuge." Many families sign up to host our students year after year; Christoph remembers one woman in Grenoble who cried when her fourth and youngest daughter graduated from high school since it meant the end of her eligibility as a host mother. Host families may also send their children to Exeter's summer school, where they make friends with students from other parts of the world. "You end up with a whole network of people whose connection to each other is Exeter," says Christoph.
"We do a good job of bringing the world to Exeter," says Keeble. "But another dimension of that is bringing the world together in other ways. To that end, in many programs, Exonians who already come from a variety of backgrounds go on to experience a third culture together. That's a really valuable experience."