This year marks Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences 15th year of participating in a foreign exchange program with the Leonardo Da Vinci School (LDVS) in Lima, Peru. Four Barnesville students recently returned from their three-week immersion into Peruvian life. The cultural exchange, which is a unique opportunity for Middle School students, is a wonderful enrichment vehicle that touches the lives of every Barnesville student and the entire School community. The program deepens students’ understanding of another culture, raises awareness of the global community, and increases Spanish fluency.
As part of the exchange, Barnesville students in 7th or 8th grade have an opportunity to spend three weeks over summer break in Lima, Peru. Barnesville students stay with a Peruvian host and are fully immersed in Peruvian family life, eating typical Peruvian foods, experiencing the Peruvian culture, and creating new friendships.
While in Lima, Barnesville exchange students attend classes at LDVS, including a comprehensive course in Spanish intended to improve Spanish language skills. American students are welcomed by the entire LDVS community, and have an opportunity to share their culture with students at every level through presentations, daily interactions, and games with younger students.
Students also enjoy field trips in and around the city to learn about the deep history of Peru, including a visit to the Indian Market and the Pachacamac ruins. A focal point of the trip is the four days spent in Cuzco and Machu Picchu exploring the ancient Incan ruins and learning about the Incan culture.
The cultural exchange comes full circle in January and February, when Barnesville hosts several students from LDVS, often the same students who were host families to Barnesville students in Peru. Peruvian students live with a Barnesville host family and attend classes with their host student. Weekly field trips are planned and designed to take advantage of the rich American history in the DC metro area. Students visit the Smithsonian, Mt. Vernon, the National Cathedral, as well as historic downtown Frederick. Guests from Peru are fully integrated in the Barnesville School community and welcomed by students in every grade.
“I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing our Peru exchange program as a parent, a chaperone, and an administrator,” commented Susanne Johnson, Interim Head of School at Barnesville “I see how deeply it impacts not only the students who travel to Peru, but our entire student body. The exchange students from Leonardo Da Vinci School become part of our School family and our students are embraced just as warmly in Lima. The kids not only see how much they have in common but learn about the differences as well. We take time to reflect and celebrate what is unique about each culture. Making global connections enriches our students as they become citizens of the world.”
The relationship between Barnesville and LDVS is further strengthened through email friendships that are fostered between 6th grade Barnesville Spanish students and 5th and 6th grade English students at LDVS. Students are paired with the 21st century equivalent of a pen pal and engage in on-going emails throughout the school year, learning about each other and life half-way across the globe.
The Peruvian cultural exchange is a highlight for the students who have the opportunity to participate either by traveling to Peru or hosting a Peruvian student. The bonds of friendship that form between the students are deep, and many continue to keep in touch long after the exchange has ended. As one Barnesville student commented, “During the time I spent as an exchange student in Lima, I learned a new language, a new culture, and have created friendships that last to this very day.”