Cultivating Global Awareness: Solebury Global Education Concentration

Jeannette Eckhardt
The emphasis of Solebury’s Global Education Concentration is on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The goals address global challenges of poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. 

“Students have the unique opportunity to cultivate a deeper sense of global awareness by exploring ideas integrated into multiple subjects and disciplines through academic coursework, cultural events, languages, service, travel, and independent study,” said Maria Gil Gonzalez, the concentration’s co-director. “The concentration presents an opportunity to understand the world and get out of your own bubble. With the various goals addressed, everyone can find an element they are passionate about to create a program that best suits their interests and aids them in becoming a global citizen.”

Reflecting on the school year so far, Maria expressed a major highlight of the program was the Global Education Week held in February. The week is designed to share various cultures and perspectives with students and faculty, to develop a deeper understanding and awareness of the world around us. This year, the week was planned and managed entirely by students in the concentration, including choosing and scheduling all the guest speakers. Every element of the week was organized based on what they felt was important to share with the community and what they wanted to learn more about. 

As part of Global Education Week, a student panel was organized to learn about our exchange programs in Barcelona and Switzerland from past participants. This was an excellent opportunity for students to gain a clearer understanding of what the experience would be like. One of the panelists, Henry Eastburn ’22, participated in the Swiss exchange in February of 2020, where he studied at Haut-Lac École Internationale Bilingue in Saint-Légier-La Chiésaz, Switzerland. While there were many picturesque highlights from his experience, such as skiing in the alps and walking the cobbled streets of Gruyère, his favorite experiences were the more personal interactions. 

“My favorite part of going abroad is the small, personal experiences such as making raclette with my host brothers. I love meeting new people and enjoy conversing with others who have had different experiences and have been raised differently than myself. I believe conversing with others opens up your view of the world in a very unique, personal way. I met people from other European countries and people who have lived all over the world. For instance, on one of my first days, I was in homeroom and was talking with a student who had previously lived in a compound in Saudi Arabia.” Henry plans to return to Switzerland for his senior project and will live with the same host family and volunteer for an organization that promotes bike advocacy and cycling infrastructure. 

After the exchange program was halted due to covid, Maria and co-director Angelo were eager to provide this experience to students again. In March, several students traveled to Barcelona for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture by staying with host families and taking part in specific language and culture classes at St. Paul’s School. “I loved the whole experience,” shared Katharine Duggan ’23. “Not only was I able to go to Barcelona, but I was also able to live there for an entire month and live as they do. Seeing the culture in such an authentic way is something that I am incredibly grateful for because it truly is a privilege. I was able to go to a high school in another country, take classes, live with a Spanish family, try authentic Spanish food, see Barcelona in a deeper, less touristy way, and create a great friendship.” 

For students hesitant about getting involved in an exchange program, Maria encourages them to push themselves out of their comfort zone. “You’ll be with a local family which adds a level of comfortability and a different approach to travel. You’ll have experiences that differ from the traditional, touristy itinerary most travelers experience. This allows students to gain a deeper insight and appreciation for the county.”

When asked why students should get involved in the Global Education Concentration, Henry shared, “Joining the concentration allows students to be able to major in something in high school and have a unique experience focus at an early age. Getting involved in the concentration results in exposure to new ways of thinking, ideas, experiences, and friends. Beyond traveling abroad, being a global education student allowed me to dive deeper into a foreign language, global history, and social science classes. Global education at Solebury sends students across the world, yet also allows one to become more connected and impactful in the school community.”

Looking ahead, the concentration plans to offer international travel and language immersion experiences when conditions allow. These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities include trips to countries such as Costa Rica, South Africa, and others.

To learn more about the Global Education Concentration at Solebury School, please click here. You can also get a glimpse into the concentrations activities and trips by following their Instagram page, @SoleburyGlobalEd.