Changes to Learning in the World Policies

This year, several policy changes have been made to Learning in the World (LITW) programs. Students can now participate in multiple LITW programs, and off-campus performing arts opportunities will be classified as Performing in the World (PITW) programs, separate from LITW.

“When we started Learning in the World five years ago, our goal was to be able to offer learning opportunities to every student during their time at [Andover], that every student would be able to get out of their bubble, and that they would be able to be in contact and experience twenty-first century skills outside of campus. We felt that by giving a student just one opportunity, we were not being true to the commitment we made five years ago,” said Carmen Muñoz-Fernández, Director of LITW and Instructor in Spanish.

According to Muñoz-Fernández, the one-trip policy had become restrictive and, at times, programs were postponed because of the limiting policies. Muñoz-Fernández said that students were often eager to participate in more LITW trips after coming back from one.

“It’s hard to say no to that passion, that interest. We found — in our program leaders and partners — that they were ready… We thought, ‘What if we did it differently? What if we went back, listened to what the students and leaders wanted?’ By listening, we became aware of the policies that needed to change… We hope that these changes will help the community,” said Muñoz-Fernández.

Previously, the program paid for students on full financial aid to attend one trip of their choosing. Following the policy changes, full-aid students are now given a budget of 9,000 dollars. This financial cap was not in place last year.

“Those who are on full aid can do a more expensive program or do more than one. 9,000 dollars was the number they could afford in the budget,” said Muñoz-Fernández.

PITW and LITW have been classified as different programs. PITW will not count towards a student’s LITW finances, meaning that PITW will not impact the 9,000 dollar LITW cap.

“While participants undergo the same examination, the departments are seperated. For Performing in the World, you audition and are chosen because you’re exceptional at any performing-related skillset. For Learning in the World, students are chosen because they would make a great asset to the team,” said Muñoz-Fernández.

Jenni Lord ’19 found her LITW experience very rewarding. According to Lord, she became close friends with Andover students she did not know prior to the trip and built relationships with people from other countries, despite a language barrier.

Lord said, “I went on a trip to the Dominican Republic [with the Mariposa Foundation] in the summer of 2017… Now that these new policies are in place, I can go again. This spring I’m hoping to go back to the [Dominican Republic], and I’m really excited about it because that wouldn’t be possible without the new [multiple trip policy] and the financial assistance.”

The Learning in the World team consists of Eric Roland, Director of Partnerships; Andy Housiaux, Currie Family Director of the Tang Institute; and Muñoz-Fernández.

According to Muñoz-Fernández, the team spent several months researching data, considering their financial budget, and talking to people. They reviewed data from the last four or five years and examined trips using factors such as cost, attendance, and follow-up student reviews.

“Sometimes I have to have difficult conversations with conflicted students. Students come into my office with concerns and worries because they want to go to so many programs. Sometimes I have to tell them they can only choose one for that year, or that term. I think this is the main way I listen to the students and their opinions. I really appreciate those conversations, even if they are difficult sometimes, because conversations help us make so many decisions and are extremely beneficial in the development of the program,” said Muñoz-Fernández.

The LITW team then presented their proposed policy changes to the Travel Funding Oversight Committee, which reviews every travel plan on campus. The final step was to share their proposal with the Senior Academic Council, which consists of every administrator, including Head of School John Palfrey.

The programs continue to expand. Through PITW, The Fidelio Society, Academy Chorus, and Chamber Orchestra will travel to Portugal over Spring Vacation. Additionally, Ryan Wheeler, Director and Chair of Archaeology at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archeology, will take students to China this summer to explore Chinese archaeology and culture.

Students commented on the immense impact and learning opportunities that come from participating in a LITW program, such as Aidan Burt ’21, who attended the Yachana Ecuador trip last summer. The trip lasted three weeks, and according to Burt, required an open mind in terms of comfort, food, and living spaces.

Burt said, “We helped build a playground for some of the kids in the Amazon. The kids there were so happy with what they had, so I learned that happiness isn’t really material — you don’t have to measure it that way… There are so many opportunities to go to all these different places around the world like the Galapagos and the Amazon. I’m probably never going to get to go there again. I think it’s really great that they offer this for kids like us. We’re just in high school, but already we have opportunities to see so many different places.”

With the implementation of new policies, Chioma Ugwonali ’20 is grateful for the chance to be able to explore the world again. Last summer Ugwonali attended the INESLE Madrid trip, and she hopes to go on the Dominican Republic trip this spring.

“Coming here, to Andover, is already an enormous opportunity for me, and just being able to explore the world one more time before I leave is just a once in a lifetime kind of thing. I hope that motivates more people in general just to seize this chance to go, that we’re so privileged that we can go almost anywhere in the world as a part of a school program,” said Ugwonali.

Emma Brown ’19 went to Scotland over the summer as a member of the cast of “Big Love.” According to Brown, she was excited about not only traveling to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe — the oldest theatre festival in the world — but also performing in it.

“Learning something about yourself, and learning something about the people around you, and learning something about the world at large and your place in it, perhaps, is incredibly valuable. I wouldn’t give that up for the world,” said Brown.

Muñoz-Fernández emphasizes the importance of LITW programs and encourages students to participate in them. According to Muñoz-Fernández, it is very important for students and adults alike to get out of their comfort zones.

“To be able to look at life in perspective. We all need certain skills in the twenty-first century; we need empathy, we need humility, respect for others, and an understanding of other cultures… We hope that by giving this opportunity in LITW, we allow students to branch out and strengthen these core skill sets…It’s a tremendous experience that is not something we can provide here on campus, but that we have to get out of campus to do,” said Muñoz-Fernández.

Muñoz-Fernández hopes to continue to expand LITW by adding a Global Citizenship or Global Education component where students would, either before or after their trip, work on skills, learn about certain cultures, and discuss their experiences.

Ultimately, though, Muñoz-Fernández has one main goal.

Muñoz-Fernández said, “This is a big dream of mine: to be able to see these traveling opportunities change students and having students want to take these newfound skills and motivations and pursue them into their adult life.”