30 PA Students to Travel Abroad This Summer

This year, approximately 30 students are expected to travel to China or Spain with summer abroad programs hosted by School Year Abroad (SYA). Last summer, Phillips Academy students participated in the recently founded SYA China program for the first time. The 24 student participants traveled to Beijing, China, where they took Chinese classes on the School Year Abroad campus and stayed with host families. The great success of last year’s trip to China encouraged SYA to start another Summer Abroad program. A trip to Spain will now be offered in addition to the trip to China. By the summer of 2008, the organization is looking to further its travel opportunities to France and Italy as well. These four destinations are the same countries the School Year Abroad programs are in and would be held on the SYA campuses. Last year, SYA had not initially been planning on hosting a summer program then until PA “cajoled them into starting a program,” said Mr. Peter Merrill, Head of the World Languages Department. The five-week trip was divided into two main parts: learning and traveling. The first four weeks were devoted mainly to learning Chinese, the main goal of the trip. Students attended approximately four hours of classes per day. The Chinese language courses were divided into three different types of classes: large classes of eight students, smaller classes of four students, and one-on-one teacher conferences for 20 minutes a day. Students were also required to take at least two of three “culture classes” offered. Last summer, these included martial arts, calligraphy and watercolors. Mr. Merrill said, “One day of classes was equal to about one week of [Chinese] work at PA.” He also mentioned that many students had great success in the Chinese program, moving up through the equivalent of one or even two years of PA study just through one summer abroad. The last week was dedicated to traveling. Although certain excursions were essentially to tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City and The Great Wall of China, other activities involved working with local people. Students visited a school for children whose parents were in jail and also went to see the “Massage Hospital,” a place where blind people learn to become certified in massage therapy. Throughout the five weeks of the program students were staying with home-stay families so they could further be enriched their knowledge of the Chinese language and culture. Mr. Conley, head of the Chinese Department, said that Andover has been recommending programs for students to travel abroad for the past five to ten years. The old programs were more tourism-based and only hosted about 15 students. Last year, when School Year Abroad took over, more students joined, possibly because of name recognition. Aside from a few changes, this summer’s trips will be similar to last year’s trip to China. Because the summer of 2006 was the pioneer year in the program, only Andover students were accepted. This year, participants are expected to come from a wider array of academic backgrounds since the program will be open to other boarding schools. Instead of only 24 students from Andover, the program will be searching for a total of 30-35 interested high school underclassmen. Phillips Academy also recommends several other summer abroad programs not hosted by SYA. These include a trip to Russia hosted by the American Council of Teachers of Russian, and a trip to Germany hosted by the Association of Teachers of German. B.’A.L.A.M., Bilingual Archaeological Learning Adventure in Mesoamerica, is a school-run program that also involves traveling to a different country but focuses on archaeology.