In today’s globally connected world, more and more high school students are getting an opportunity to enjoy all the cultural and academic amenities countries have to offer through various study abroad programs.
For many of these students in the Baltimore community, learning another nation’s way of life, customs and traditions is as much of an educational aspect as the schooling itself.
Daniel Goldman, who recently graduated from Beth Tfiloh and returned home from his senior trip to Israel, said the transparent dialogue among locals was eye-opening.
“To be honest, I think the whole vibe over there and the people are more relaxed,” Goldman said. “I think the people over there are more blunt, and when I’m with them, I never have to worry about offending anyone because they’re really good at taking constructive criticism.”
At Gilman, meanwhile, several exchange programs at various European schools are open to perspective rising juniors and seniors hoping to broaden their scholastic horizons. There are arrangements in place with Christ’s Hospital in the United Kingdom, St. Edward’s School in England, Porg School in Prague, Czech Republic and institutions in Spain.
Andrew Poverman, a rising senior at Gilman, spent this past spring at Porg School’s Liben branch after one of his lacrosse teammates told him of his positive experience.
He said it took some time adjusting to his new surroundings, especially the language barrier. But after a few weeks, Poverman said he enjoyed many of Prague’s customs, including the school’s end-of-year hiking trip.
“It just seemed like something I couldn’t pass up, the chance to go to Prague and learn about their way of life,” Poverman said. “I’m really glad [I went], because it opened my eyes to a lot of things. If I had to do it over again, there isn’t really much I’d change about my time there.”
Eighth-graders at Krieger Schechter Day School cap their year with a two-week trip to Israel in conjunction with Ramah Israel Programs, the camping arm of conservative Judaism that impacts more than 9,000 students per year.
As part of Beth Tfiloh’s requirements for graduation, students are expected to partake in the school’s annual senior trip to Israel and Poland, which is designed to inspire a lasting commitment to the Holy Land. Also, the school offers a gap-year program to students who delay their college enrollment to study in Israel for one year after high school.
Goldman, 18, has visited Israel once in each of the last two years, and he said the significance of his most recent trek was greatly enhanced because of the bond he shared with his classmates. He enjoyed his time so much that he deferred his enrollment to the University of Maryland, College Park this fall to study in Israel for one year beginning this month.
“Going to Israel — the most meaningful place in the world — with your friends, it just makes the entire experience so much more rewarding,” Goldman said. “The meaning of everything is multiplied when you’re with people you’ve known for so long and when you’ve been waiting for this trip for so long.”
That sense of pride is also shared by the administrators, who are responsible for spending countless hours helping plan and coordinate these trips. Bart Griffith, assistant head of school for training and learning at Gilman, said both he and the school take a great deal of pride in pushing students beyond their comfort zone.
“It’s great to hear from the boys when they come back about the way they were challenged and the way their ideas or assumptions were challenged,” Griffith said. “I think it was Mark Twain who said, ‘Travel is a cure for bigotry,’ so you can’t travel and not change. It’s one of the most profound development opportunities kids have.”