Experiencing America Outside the Classroom

Experiencing America Outside the Classroom

Attending a reputable private school in America will yield a quality education, develop your English-speaking skills, and improve your chances of enrolling in one of the U.S.A.'s many outstanding colleges and universities. At Marianapolis Preparatory School in Connecticut, the administrators take their program one step further by incorporating travel into their curriculum.

"Cultural competency is a recognized component of language learning. You can't speak a language well without understanding what is important to the people who speak that language. Travel allows our international students to actually experience the culture rather than just read about it in a textbook ," explains English as a Second Language Department Chair Karen Bowley.

The ESL program at features a series of trips for students to learn about American culture, society and history. Included in their ESL fee are monthly day trips to historic sites, as well as one week-long trip each spring. On day trips students have gone alpine sledding, skiing and snowboarding in the mountains of Vermont, seen a Broadway play or show ("Blue Man Group" for example) in New York City, walked the "Freedom Trail" in historic Boston and visited the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.

"Since we are located in historic New England, the birthplace of America, we are close to many major attractions," comments Bowley.

In the spring, the program culminates in a week-long visit to a major city or region of the country. In recent years students have explored Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco. The trips are integrated into the curriculum in the classroom as well. Before a visit to a location, the students study its historic significance in class.

"When students have been to our nation's Capital or seen the Liberty Bell or visited the birthplace of one of our most famous writers, they are able to deepen their cultural understanding of this country, and they are also able to compare and contrast this with what is important in their own cultures," notes Bowley. She adds that all the teachers within the ESL department have had the experience of living and learning in another country, and therefore, "have experienced first-hand how critical an understanding of culture is to achieving a high level of communicative skills in the language one is studying," she explains.

Lastly, the program makes a point of exposing students to some of the region's most notable universities and colleges wherever they go. "By getting to know the various regions of the U.S.A., New England in particular, they can make more informed choices when it comes to selecting a college or university in the future," she notes.

Experiencing American Families

Marianapolis also offers a Family Network Program so that international students can visit their American homes, for a meal, day excursion or holiday weekend.

The program gives international students the chance to see what it is like to spent time with an American family. The program is voluntary, and each student who signs up gets to know the family of a Marianapolis day student or faculty member. The group has organized gatherings such as dinners, ice cream socials, ice skating trips and bowling outings. Host families often drop off care packages and birthday cakes, or other gestures that help with homesickness. As a result, many long-term friendships have been formed, and some American students now visit their new friends in their home countries.

"The program creates an opportunity for international students and American families to share and appreciate each others' cultures and traditions in an informal setting," comments program organizer Tara Kelly.

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By Diana Creed
Diana Creed is the Director of Communications at Marianapolis Preparatory School

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