Foreign Exchange is back!

Arijeta Demirovic, Writer

Foreign Exchange is back at Curtis High School. Due to COVID, there hasn’t  been an exchange since February of 2020. This year approval for trips outside the country was finally granted.

Students have the choice of traveling to Italy during spring break (13 days) for a foreign exchange, or joining a foreign trip to either Spain or France during mid-winter recess (12 days in total). 

Curtis has been exchanging with a school in France for 35 years, 33 years for Italy, 14 years with Spain, and 6 years with the Netherlands.  All of these exchanges  will resume next school year. Curtis High School has been participating in exchanges with schools in Europe since the 1950s, and is the only high school on Staten Island that offers it every year at below cost. 

Ms. Isasi-Endress and Ms. Goodacre have been working tirelessly. They have been hounding the superintendent to approve the trips and making reservations and itineraries for each destination. Usually, schools use travel agencies such as EF Education, which charges over $3,300.  The Curtis program charges $2,200, which covers the airfare, hotel fees, ground transportation for going to each city, three daily meals, and insurance. When adding the cost of all 65 students, that is $71,500 saved, a great feat when considering the length of each of these trips. 

Through these exchanges, students take what they learned in a textbook and are able to understand it on a deeper level. The  facts they learned are now associated with a first-hand experience. 

Ms. Isasi-Endress feels these in-person encounters with historical monuments and architecture, in addition to the chance to meet people of other cultures, really solidifies the information that is usually obtained from reading a textbook.  

“The world is my classroom, and students can learn much more outside of an actual classroom setting,” said Isasi-Endress.

For instance, on the foreign trip to Spain, students can expect to tour an IB school and converse with the students in Spanish. In addition, students will also be going into an escape room one afternoon, with the only clues in Spanish. Aside from these smaller activities, students in Spain, France, and Italy will be traveling to several cities within the country and to  different historical sites. One of these sites is Normandy Beach in France, specifically a graveyard there dedicated to American soldiers from World War II. 

As this program gets  back on its feet again and the sister schools in Europe can better adjust to new COVID safety requirements, all the  trips will be exchanges. However, this year the students traveling to France and Spain will be staying in hotels. The prospect of traveling might not seem too appealing, especially when considering the fact that students will have to spend over a week with people you are completely comfortable with, but one of the best aspects of this program is the ability to make connections with these people that can become long-lasting. 

While 25 students and 4 chaperons are chosen for the France and Spain trips each, only 15 students and 3 chaperons are chosen for the exchange program to Italy, so a total of 65 students will be going. As of the 8th of December this year, 149 students had signed up for these trips. Due to the popularity, students who apply must, first and foremost, have both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, get teacher recommendations, have a passing GPA, and write an essay saying why they would like to go on a trip. These numerous requirements are to ensure that students who deserve to take advantage of this opportunity have this option open to them. 

While the due date to submit these applications has passed, by April students can begin the process of signing up for next year’s trips! This includes exchanges to France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands, all of which will be exchanges and students will be staying in host homes and be required to host a student as well.