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ASH Exchange Program Enriches Student Life
Mary LaBumbard
exchange portrait

The Clarion Herald asked student Wesley Warren about her experience with the Academy of the Sacred Heart’s exchange program in which students study in the U.S. and abroad, and students from other Sacred Heart schools visit to New Orleans

Source: The Clarion Herald

Q. Tell us about your initial interest and experiences with the exchange program.

A. 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.

Q. Is the curriculum as the same or different than in New Orleans?

A. 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.

Q. How is studying different in a foreign country?

A. 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.

Q. What did you gain from the experiences?

A. 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.

Basic program details

Qualified Academy of the Sacred Heart students in grades 8-12 can participate in the exchange program, staying with a host family and attending another school in the national or international Sacred Heart Network for several weeks. Eighth-grade students typically travel for one to two weeks within the continental United States.

Older students may travel anywhere in the Global Sacred Heart Network. Students typically are not allowed to miss more than two weeks of school, and the dates are worked out between the schools and hosting families.

Last year, 77 New Orleans students from grades 8-12 participated in Sacred Heart’s global exchange program in eight different countries. Past participants have studied in France, Chile, the U.K., Ireland, Peru, Austria, Spain and Australia.

Students consistently rate the experience as one of the most formative of their young lives in terms of broadening their perspective and building lifelong friendships. Before or after the exchange trip, the New Orleans student hosts an international student, usually for the same amount of time.  

Sacred Heart also has three  chaperoned group exchanges with Sacred Heart schools every summer (Spain, France and Austria), facilitated by the local faculty in New Orleans. The Spain and France exchanges, in particular, focus on study of the native languages to immerse students in the language. Students stay with their host families developing their fluency.

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