Peru Exchange Program Builds Lasting, Cross-Cultural Relationships
Posted 08/19/2016 11:05AM

For more than 15 years, Barnesville's exchange program with the Leonardo Da Vinci School (LDVS) in Lima, Peru has fostered cross-cultural connections. This year, several of those connections came full-circle, strengthening long-lasting relationships.

Each summer, a select group of 7th and 8th grade students from Barnesville travels to Lima, Peru, where they spend three weeks attending school, living with host families, and experiencing the Peruvian culture. Barnesville, in turn, hosts students from LDVS for three weeks each January. While in Peru, Barnesville exchange students take  Spanish classes and attend other classes such as math, science, and literature. In addition to shadowing their hosts, Barnesville students spend time with younger LDVS students, helping them practice English, similar to how the hosts help Barnesville students improve their Spanish.

Exchange students enjoy field trips in and around the city, learning about the history of Peru, including a visit to Lima’s Indian Market, as well as the Pachacamac ruins. A major focal point of the trip is the four day trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu, exploring and learning about the ancient Incan ruins and learning about the area’s culture and history. This year, students also participated in a service project where they worked to give back to a Peruvian community in need, travelling to Pamplona, a small town with no plumbing or running water. Students helped to build stairs in the hill community to help provide residents easier access to their homes and painted homes across the community.

Debbie Don, Barnesville’s Assistant Director of Admissions & Advancement, served as the chaperone this summer. She and two of her children have experienced both sides of the exchange program -- hosting students from Peru and traveling to Lima. Her daughter was one of two Barnesville exchange students who could compare their experience this summer with older siblings who participated in the exchange program in years past. Her son returned to Peru this summer for a high school exchange program, staying with an LDVS student who was an exchange student at Barnesville in the winter of 2014.

Mrs. Don said of the experience, “It is unique for students to have this kind of opportunity at such a young age. It is impressive that they are able to immerse themselves in a culture that is, in some respects, really different than ours,” she said. “They stay with families who they do not know and who may not be fluent English speakers. It is a huge growth experience that influences students long after they return to the United States. The community service project was especially meaningful for this year’s exchange students.”

Having gained a new worldwide perspective, exchange students treasure friendships made with LDVS students and maintain contact through email and social media. They share their experiences and introduce their new friends to other Barnesville students so the cultural exchange continually enriches the broader school community.