The first stage of my international journey began in — of all places — Brattleboro, Vermont at the School for International Training. Vermont itself was lush, beautiful and more alive than the dry hills of California. It was the perfect place to reset and refresh the mind.
All the people who were part of The Experiment in International Living ultimately were the best part of being in Brattleboro. More than 80 leaders coming from all parts of the U.S, the world and different walks of life were coming together to prepare for our high school students before we led them abroad. I have never been part of a group that was so intensely interesting, energizing and dynamic.
These were definitely “my people”.
The Experiment, housed by SIT, creates themed programs around the world for high school students in the U.S and around the world. They do an amazing job of providing opportunities for underrepresented students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a study abroad experience. The Experiment partners and stakeholders help to ensure there is funding for scholarships and financial aid to ensure these trips are possible for students. Organizations like this are what I love about international education and development.
The best part of this trip has been the students! This impressive group of students come from different backgrounds, cultures and are from all over the U.S. I couldn’t have asked for a better group and they’ve become like family. Their open mindedness, curiosity and willingness to explore the unknown has been amazing and inspiring!
Throughout our time in Paris and Aix-en-Provence we have been accompanied by two wonderful Parisian artists, Thomy (Photographer) and Hélene (Artist). We have had the opportunity to work closely with them to learn more about art, photography and how we’d like to express our talents to others. With them we have learned to develop film in a dark room, see David Hockney’s work in Le Pompidou, visit Les Beaux Arts School in Paris, discover Cézanne’s workshop in Aix and truly experience art hands on.
Throughout my time here I have been accompanied by and working closely with a co-leader. The Experiment staff did an amazing job matching me with Eric; Our strengths and leading styles have perfectly complemented each other styles to make this a great experience for our students, us and our art teachers. Together we help to facilitate the program in conjunction with our in country French partners, CEI.
As we depart from Aix we make our way to Séguret, a small rural town in Provence. Our host, Norbert, welcomed our group graciously in our beautiful 300-plus year old homes. While we are here, we will work on our art with Hélene in the peaceful, picturesque countryside town.
The Experiment has allowed me to turn my dream of working abroad into a reality where I can have meaningful experiences and strong relationships that will help me to further my professional career. There is definitely no better way to “work” than leading students abroad.
Eating all the great french food along the way hasn’t been so bad either! 😉
Fiorella Morales is a graduate student in post secondary educational leadership. This summer she is in France as an international group leader with the School for International Training (SIT) on a program called The Experiment in International Living.