Global Initiatives program on the road again

Experiential-learning opportunities resume with trips to New York City, Boston over Thanksgiving break.

Adam Loyd
November 22, 2021

Ellis Island is on the itinerary of a group of Exeter students touring New York City during Thanksgiving break to study immigration and its impact on American culture.

Ahead of the final bell of the fall term, 25 international students are gearing up to spend time in two historic American cities. Fourteen students will travel to Boston and 11 to New York City over the Thanksgiving break as part of the first Academy-sponsored travel programs to urban areas since the start of the pandemic.

“The main purpose of these Thanksgiving trips is for us to provide a safe, interesting, connected, subsidized experience for students so that they have a chance to have some downtime, build some connections with one another … and come back to campus feeling a sense of rejuvenation,” says Director of Global Initiatives Eimer Page.

The programs offer international students an alternative to traveling to their home countries, which in some instances require hotel quarantines lasting longer than the school break.

Page and members of the Exeter administration have worked diligently to ensure students and chaperones adhere to COVID safety guidelines during the trips.

“There's so much to be thought about whenever we're sending students out into more crowded venues, both the safety of our students and also us going into those communities,” she says. “There's a lot of work being done just to figure out the protocols, to make these trips happen safely.”

In a typical academic year, more than 400 Exonians engage in experiential learning opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. From trips during Thanksgiving and spring breaks to entire terms spent immersed in places like France, Russia and Spain, the Global Initiatives program features a wealth of offerings. The pandemic has curtailed most of those opportunities since the start of 2020, but over the summer, a group of 12 students, led by Instructor in English Jason BreMiller, participated in an experiential education program in Vermont.

“We put our toe back in the water in a very controlled way last June,” says Page. “[Students] were kayaking, hiking and doing trail maintenance … in a camp that was not yet open to the outside world.” 

Each of the Thanksgiving trips will be built around a focus of inquiry. Students traveling to Boston will study urbanization and how city’s design has favored wealthier areas. Students will also learn about the city’s standing STEM-industry hub. The New York group will focus on the city’s history of immigration and how various populations have contributed to New York’s culture.

“The students were able to pick a destination based on interests of theirs,” Page says. “That gives them some common purpose. It's not just, ‘We're going to a city together.’ It's we're going to a city and this is how we're going to be looking at it and this is what we're going to be talking about. Which is very much in keeping with our pre-COVID travel, as well.”