Wesley W '20: on Global Exchange
Tell us about your initial interest and experiences with the exchange program.
Having visited Sacred Heart schools in Miami and San Francisco with my family, I approached our Global Exchange coordinator about participating. In my freshman year, my family hosted a student from Amiens, France, the site of the first Sacred Heart school.
That summer, at age 15, I traveled to Amiens for my first exchange trip. Since that time, I have revisited the Amiens school and participated in exchanges at Sacred Heart schools in Vienna, Austria, as well as Auckland, New Zealand.
Is the curriculum as the same or different than in New Orleans?
It’s very different because it’s based in the context of another culture, but the information itself is the same. For example, while based in Austria, I explored Sigmund Freud to a much greater extent than what is typically taught in an American high school because of his importance not only to his field but to his nation. However, I found that many of the major points of early American history, the structure of our government, major civil movements and political figures are taught in other countries due to their significance to the rest of the world.
How is studying different in a foreign country?
I didn’t find it to be very different from how I study here, aside from that the material was being taught in a different language (in two of three study-abroad locations). Probably the most marked difference was the approach to studying for college entry. European universities have a different process for college testing, and I was living with a European student as she prepared for those, so I was able to see firsthand the difference in how a student would prepare for that.
What did you gain from the experiences?
My mastery of the French language improved dramatically. I doubled my score on a fluency test after returning from Amiens, and my French teacher observed how much more I participated in class and spoke in French about French topics such the economy, politics and other aspects of French life I had experienced.
The Global Exchange program has really changed the person I have become by giving me the opportunity to learn on my own, experience independence from the community that has always surrounded me and enhanced my familiarity with the Sacred Heart network. It was a new and different place, but one that also felt familiar, because we had the Sacred Heart in common.
The Exchange Program also solidified my faith, by exploring faith through new lenses and challenging my beliefs. I experienced a powerful sense of God’s presence while touring a chapel in Austria.
I can pinpoint the exact time that this trip impacted my faith. Hearing the voices of the choir, I truly felt God’s presence with me. I knew the answers to my questions were there.