“Ciao a tutti!” marked the start of last Friday’s All School Meeting (ASM) — a greeting from Brayden Massaro ’23. Currently in Mitreo, Italy, Massaro sent a video describing his experience so far as an exchange student in Andover’s Learning In The World (LITW) program. This Friday, Spanish Instructor and LITW Director Mark Cutler, Sakina Cotton ’24, Suhaila Cotton ’24, Isabell Luo ’25, and Massaro presented at ASM on their experience with the LITW programs. Founded in 2014, the program engages students outside the classroom through international and domestic trips.
“Learning In The World strives to prepare younger people for engaged global citizenship through intercultural place-based and world-facing experiential learning opportunities. Our offerings immerse students in their learning anywhere in the world, abroad, in the U.S., nearby, on campus, and virtually, and challenge them to see themselves, humanity, and the natural environment from diverse perspectives. Thus, our students cultivate a deeper sense of empathy for others and acquire knowledge and skills to help them take action towards a more sustainable, just, and equitable world,” said Cutler.
Although many students do not go abroad during their Senior Year, Massaro felt he could not pass up the opportunity. Despite not knowing Italian prior to his arrival, Massaro highlighted the open-mindedness that he developed over the course of the program.
“My reason for taking this leap was difficult as most Seniors do not participate in a year-long program abroad, but in the end I still decided to. I couldn’t think of any possibilities that really outweigh the benefits. I knew that there were tons of risks, but I also knew that everything I got out of this would far outweigh anything that I could miss [at Andover],” said Massaro.
Cutler continued, describing the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone and approaching new experiences with an open mind.
“I think that it’s important to approach any of these experiences with an open mind and curiosity and a desire to understand. We have to let go of prejudices in order to really make those changes in the way we see the world. It’s not only their perspectives on others but also their perspectives on themselves. Especially in our culture and in our little bubble, we tend to think of ourselves as individuals. It’s important to see how everybody lives in an interconnected world and that our personal experiences can be different from others but there are ways that our experiences overlap,” said Cutler.
Following Massaro, Luo presented about her trip in Spain this past summer through her LITW program. Not only does Luo appreciate her growth of a more global perspective, but she also expressed gratitude for meeting life-long friends through her program.
“I think I did improve my Spanish and I did do all that stuff, but I think it’s the people and the connections that you make that help you gain a new perspective and be more open as a person. I think that’s the biggest benefit. I think I’ve become more open to different perspectives that I don’t necessarily agree with, and I’m more open to trying to understand where they’re coming from. Even if it’s not just Spanish culture, if a person with a different background than me came up to me, I would be open to listening and understanding them,” said Luo.
The student presentations inspired audience member Ayush Gupta ’26 to further look into LITW programs. Specifically, Gupta found Massaro’s informative video to be particularly exciting, as it provided a transparent and current look into life as an exchange student.
“I think the experience where we got to see a person in the actual program talking to us was my favorite moment. I got to understand how it actually works, understand some challenges, some struggles, and something that Braydon had interest in the program. It was a really good experience. It brought me perspective on the opportunities, and I’m definitely going to look out in The Hive for a LITW application,” said Gupta.
While both Massaro and Luo shared stories of their travels outside the country, Sakina and Suhaila Cotton presented on their Civil Rights Trip from this past summer, featuring their time in southern states within the United States of America.
“Our trip was the “Journey of American Freedom and Social Justice: The Civil Rights Trip.” The Civil Rights Trip was a ten day road trip through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Trips like these, carefully curated by teacher, can be very influentially partnered. It was fun, empowering, and enlightening. There are so many stories out there, and they [teachers] always find a way to connect things to how you see your own life,” said Sakina.
Petra Mrazova ’23 expressed similar sentiments to Gupta, appreciating the opportunities that LITW programs provide for Andover students. As a Senior, Mrazova emphasized the value of the summer trips as opposed to exchange programs during the school year.
“I really liked the student contributions. It was really interesting and it pulled me in. It makes me sad that I cannot join it as a Senior. If I did, I think I would do the summer programs. It’s shorter and you get the experience you could get in the full year, exploring a new environment, new people, and new culture. It’s really exciting,” said Mrazova.
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