Category Archives: Student Work

Summer: The Perfect Time to Learn?

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by Addie Gerszberg ’18

While rest seemed to be a critical part of many students’ agendas this past summer, so was learning for the many of us who take the time to investigate passions that the busy grind of the school year often prohibits us from pursuing. For me, those passions are international relations and learning more about the world’s languages and cultures. This summer, I focused my attention on learning about Japan after I was grateful to have been accepted to the High School Diplomats Program at Princeton University.

This program, which has run for the last 30 years thanks to the generosity of AIU Insurance Company of Tokyo and the Freeman Foundation, focuses on friendship, community, and peace: values that were all consistent with what I have learned at George School. During the ten days of this program, my Japanese roommate, Hana, and I had the opportunity to see diplomacy at its most basic level: through friendship. Through each days’ themes and scheduling, all of the Japanese and American students engaged in meaningful activities and conversations. I will never forget when my friend, Mizuki, from Hiroshima, shared her grandmother’s experience of the atomic bombings of their city during World War II. Likewise, my friend Sayaka’s story about being from Fukushima and the impact the nuclear power plant disaster following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 has had on her life was also profoundly moving. Through these friendships, what I had previously only learned in history books, came to life, and while those examples are of atrocities, the positive stories these new friends have shared are already too numerous to count. These jovial experiences of connection among us “high school diplomats” are best exemplified through two of my favorite days of the program: the Japanese culture festival and the Paula Chow Diplomat Talks.

During the festival, I gained cultural insights, and a closeness to Hana, that I had not had before through partaking in a traditional tea ceremony, appreciating the art of calligraphy, and playing games. This experience was only strengthened by wearing traditional Japanese dresses called yukata (light cotton kimono) with Hana. This gift from my roommate is one I treasure dearly.

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While the festival was light hearted, the Diplomat Talks took on a more serious note, enabling all of the Japanese and American students to have discussions about the world in which we live. Being a George School student and having learned about how to have these kinds of difficult discussions was the best preparation I could have had to fully embrace the experience. The program and my education complimented each other, and while George School has taught me how to be an engaged community member, High School Diplomats enhanced my ability to be a global citizen. Now a month after I have completed the program, I have been gifted with lasting friendships and a new knowledge set that has already enriched my first classes back at school. I hope more George School students can take part in this life altering experience, and current sophomores and juniors can check the program’s website for the application (available online from 9/15/2017–1/8/2018) for this fully funded opportunity.*

*For more information please visit the website: Highschooldiplomats.com or contact the American Director, Mrs. Celine Zapolski at (571) 234-5072 or celinezapolski@highschooldiplomats.com

 

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Why College Means a Lot to me

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Here is Bea in her Oxford University t-shirt.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

College has a different connotation in every household. In some, it is a necessity. In others, it is uncommon. In my house, it is expected, but I knew I could make whatever choice I needed. But, I have always wanted to go to college.

Not only do I want to go to college, I want to go to a highly selective school. When I was around twelve, I got my heart set on Oxford University in Oxford, England. The school is globally ranked in many subjects and the more I read, the more I liked. I ended up at George School to get the IB diploma to increase my chances of getting in. Now, in my sophomore year, I think I want to stay domestic for my undergraduate degree and go to Oxford for my graduate degree. I am considering schools like Stanford, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins. I am working with a private college counselor to help improve my application.

College has come to mean a lot to me. I know I have the freedom to take whatever path I wish, but I want to learn. I want to do research and study. More than anything, college offers me a place to do that. I want to go to schools with globally recognizable programs. I want to be overqualified for any position I could possibly want. College is not my end goal, but rather the beginning of a hopefully successful future.

Schools like the ones I am looking at are considered lottery schools. Going into my junior year, my grades and courses are increasingly important. For me, this is just another lap in the race. For some, it is the start. It is time to go on college tours and talk to admissions officers. People are starting and joining clubs to boost their application. I am looking for job and research experience, but also leadership positions. And of course, I am trying to balance a social life as well.

The college process is by no means easy, but for some, it is the way to go. For me, I know college is the next step. For others, it might not be. Regardless of what people want to study, what kind of degree they want to get, or if they want to go to college at all, junior year is going to be a difficult and stressful time.

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Filed under Life After George School, Student Work, Students, The Curious George

Why I Chose the IB Program

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Teacher Kathy Rodgers helps with a class assignment. 

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

When I was about twelve, I started thinking about college. I was not sure of much, but I knew I wanted to go far, possibly even outside the country. My mom has a few friends who live in California and the school their kids go to offers the International Baccalaureate diploma. I first heard of it over the phone when I was in seventh grade. I looked it up and was drawn into the information I found.

The idea of having six subjects and having an equal balance in each interested me. At first, I worried about the arts, but I figured out that I could double in a subject to replace it. After thinking about it for a couple of months, I talked to my mom about my findings. I was really interested in getting this diploma. I was convinced it would make me a better student and wanted the opportunity to engage in this deeper level thinking.

She gave me the green light to go ahead and research schools. That’s actually how I found George School. When I got here, I was not sure what would happen. I did not know if I would change my mind and drop the IB idea. But two years later, I am a likely IB candidate. I plan to take two standard level exams, Spanish and Economics, and four higher level exams, English, Latin, Math, and Biology. The rest of my classes are a sprinkling of APs. I am doubling in language and not taking an art.

I know this is going to be very difficult, but I am prepared. The IB diploma is something I have been working towards for three years now. I love the thought of learning to think critically. I am anxious for a chance to write essays of deeper level thinking. I want to learn, but I don’t want to focus in one subject. I want to be a well-rounded academic and I feel like IB offers me more resources to do that.

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Arizona – Day 12

by Precious ’18

It’s day twelve on our trip in Arizona and school has ended, but it’s not over yet.

Today, we went to go help a friend of a friend (Leena’s brother, Jerome) on his farm. Unfortunately, because of poor weather the corn they had been growing didn’t grow well. So our job was to help replant the corn and weed the farmland. Oddly enough tumbleweeds are really strong. They don’t just tumble in the air like in western movies. Weird, right? Another group went to dig up tumbleweeds that may affect the corn that were planted. It took a few hours to complete both jobs.

After working hard through the early hours of the morning, we were rewarded with watermelon and hugs as thanks for helping out on the farm. Hugs are more rewarding than I thought. The group then visited a flea market in Tuba City. It was very hot and we were all sweating by the end of it. Many of us bought items such as blankets and jewelry. We then went back to the townhouse to go swim at the Kayenta Elementary School. It was very refreshing after hours of hard work in the fields.

There was also an opportunity to go to a powwow, and three people in our group danced in the middle of the circle to celebrate the Navajo veterans. Since we were hungry after, we went to the restaurant called The View, which is right near Monument Valley. We all had an amazing view while we were eating.

It was a great day all around, and we’re glad we could help one more person as our trip is rounding up. We’ll see everyone soon.

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Arizona

By Owen 

On Thursday after school the group took a day trip to Monument Valley, we drove through the valley in our SUVs which probably were not designed for the type of off-roaring the monument Valley loop included. For dinner we are at the View hotel, many of us had Navajo tacos and frye bread, one of our first experiences of actual Navajo cooking. On Friday morning we left for the Grand Canyon we hiked the Bright Angel trail which was approximately 1.5 miles down into the canyon and 1.5 miles back up. The hike was possibly the longest 3 miles anyone in our group had experienced. On Saturday we went on a float trip of Glen canyon, the bus ride to the docks included a trip through a U tunnel. The float trip itself was peaceful as we learned more about geology of the canyon as well as some facts about the shrouding and Native American history. The float trip paused at as a sandy beach on the river bank, where we got the chance to jump into the 47 degree water like typical George School students. On Saturday for dinner we went to Dam Bar and Grill, which was delicious. Sunday before leaving Page, AZ we stopped at Walmart to purchase school supplies for our kids at school. We also toured the Lake Powell Dam before heading back to Kayenta. I personally did not go on the tour, but heard it was interesting. For lunch on Sunday we stopped at a Texas BBQ restaurant which was in an old gas station building. We were forced to sit outside because we were a group of 15, but the canopy over the outdoor seating provided ample shade. The BBQ was delicious and he restaurant lived up to the standards of a classic Texas BBQ joint. It was a welcome end to our weekend in Page.

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Costa Rica – Final Reflection

By Pacho Gutierrez ‘77

Twenty-three years ago I led the first GS student trip to Costa Rica, a country that inspired me not only for its natural richness, but also for its dedication to conservation, sustainability, peace and social justice, among other things.  This was my 12th time taking students to this magnificent country.  As always, I left it refreshed and inspired.

Almost a quarter of a century will bring great change to any country, but it seems to be magnified in Costa Rica since it used to be so pristine.  Its population has grown by 47 percent between 1994 and 2017.  As Ticos gain in affluence, they buy more vehicles, build more roads, and construct more businesses.  This become greatly apparent as one travels the roads, there is construction everywhere.  The modern world is taking over, even a country where simplicity and unhurried lifestyle has been the way of life.

Costa Rica is doing its best to be a world leader in many fronts.  For example, and as was mentioned in the blogs, it was the first nation to reach 100 percent renewable electricity production in 2015, making it a leader in energy sustainability.  Almost one third of its territory is protected in some form or another from development or exploitation.  Ninety seven percent of its population has access to electricity and potable water. Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America. It enforces conservation laws better than most other Latin American countries.  It provides health services better than most developing countries.  It has low crime and poverty rates.

Progress continues to spread over the planet.  Modern conveniences and amenities are encroaching the Costa Rican countryside.  For example, it used to be there was little or no cell service in rural areas, now it seems like there is WiFi connectivity in every room in every lodge, no matter how remote (Tortuguero).  Those eco-tourists demand their connectivity!

Ticos continue to soldier on with their respect for nature, for wildlife and for each other.  Animals move about unafraid or unconcerned with humans.  It’s like what happens with the GS squirrels, they are emboldened by the way they are left free to roam.

Ticos are humble people with a strong sense of family and solidarity with their neighbors, something that really struck a chord with our students.  The respect and cohesiveness they show with one another is refreshing and awe inspiring.  Sure, they have problems like everyone else, but they have a tranquility about them that is unique.

Ticos say Pura Vida! (literally: Pure Life) for everything: as a greeting, as a response, as an expression, as an invitation to be positive and jovial.  Its contagious, one can’t help to be happy around Ticos.  Pura Vida all around!

I hope they never lose their joy to live their meaningful lives!

 

 

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Vietnam

by Julian

Today is our last day in Hanoi. We began with a visit to an orphanage in Bac Ninh, right outside Hanoi. Due to scheduling conflicts, we were not able to do as much service as we wanted to, but we still swept their courtyard clean and left a positive impact on the children there. The orphanage is currently taking care of 22 babies and a number of students who happen to be deaf.

Children of all ages with different abilities greeted us and watched us as we worked. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the babies there and I really admired the women who cared for them. Some of the babies had severe disabilities. Later in the afternoon, after a strange lunch with an overambitious host, we visited a highly prestigious high school in Ban Ninh. Their auditorium reminded me of George School’s, but it was decorated in red and had some busts of Ho Chi Minh and a few communist slogans. The school’s presentation of the opportunities they offer impressed me due to its location in a poor area of the city. I was overjoyed to interact with kids my age who were just as educationally apt as we were. We played games with the students and learned a lot about their everyday life at the school. Some of us exchanged social media info and they waved us good-bye with enthusiastic, kind gestures.

Later in the evening, we met up with Alex, my prefect this past year, who lives in Hanoi. His parents invited us all out to a very nice restaurant buffet/barbecue not far from our hotel. It was amazing to see my Vietnamese friends there (a few others from Hanoi/GS showed up) after two weeks of wanting to see them. We sang the George School hymn to Alex in honor of his graduation! I am excited to go back home, but I know I will miss moments like this one due to the quality of Vietnamese hospitality that we found in Hanoi and in every place we went.

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by | June 27, 2017 · 7:56 am

Vietnam

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by Tommy ’18

Today was the “free day” where we could go sightseeing and enjoy the city. As usual, we began with a delicious Skylark Hotel breakfast. After the satisfying meal, we hopped on the bus. We met our Vietnam-USA Society’s tour guide, Nga for the day. We headed to the taoist temple to see several shrines where people offered incense and food in an attempt to please the gods. We also witnessed two tai chi classes happening in the temple’s front courtyard. An annoying woman tried to sell us cheap fans for an atrocious amount of money. We next went to the West Lake buddhist pagoda. We saw more shrines where all statues of buddha were given offerings of fruit, cookies or money. After that, we treated ourselves to ice cream. The contrast between the temperature of my body and the ice cream resulted in a refreshing moment of balance for me. Devon went to a woman who was selling baby turtles and bought three of them. We walked over to the lake and threw them in, watching them swim away to freedom. We then boarded the bus and went for banh my or Vietnamese popular sandwiches on French bread. It was the perfect mix of ingredients. Since we were in a pedestrian district, we all walked around for about an hour. After we returned to the hotel, Paige, Juliette and I went clothes shopping around the Hoan Kiem Lake area, and ended up buying many articles of clothing. We ordered room service from the hotel. Paige and Juliette got pizza and I got a burger. I think burgers are the food that I miss the most from the USA. After dinner, we headed out to the night market and walked around the Hoan Kien area again. It was a much cooler night, the walk was very pleasant. We didn’t see a lot that interested us. We came back to the hotel and relaxed with some music in the girls’ room. At about 8:55 p.m., I headed down to my room and was totally exhausted, ready to go to bed.

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Costa Rica

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by Kevin

There is always something to be learned.  Isn’t that what we tell our students?  As adults and teachers we can generally anticipate their true needs as well as their desires.  Your children need to eat!  They desire connection to social media.  They need to set daily wake-up alarms.  Their desire is that we rouse them from their slumber in time to make it to breakfast.  Our students have been afforded the luxury of doing service in a country in which evaluating what is needed, verses what is desired, is a repeated thread in the fabric of the Tico’s way of life.

Today, after checking out of our tourist lodge, we visited an organic pineapple farm.  I was surprised to learn that I was woefully deficient in the actual facts involving the cultivation, organic needs, and eventual selection of the pineapples we purchase in the super market.  Four perfect pineapples were sacrificed to sate our desire for knowledge of the MD2 golden pineapple (Ananas Comosus) but the goal was accomplished.  Your children are now experts in how to pick the perfect pineapple and how to eat it!  This was a delicious learning experience.

I had the pleasure of delivering your children to their overnight homestays in San Isidro.  I hope that you will not think me unkind in the concealed joy that I took at observing them make their personal introductions to their families.  Moments later, as the adults were shaking hands with their overnight parents, you could see the uncertainty in their eyes and feel the desire, from most, to be spared this new experience.  For me, this was great theatre!  They will rarely be more present and truthful than in those moments.

What I relish in these closing hours of service are their final reflections.  As a group, they have done a marvelous job of bonding.  The overnight homestay visits touched each of your children in unique ways.  They understand now that they needed the visit to their rural families.  Families that have built their humble homes, from foundation to roof, with their own hands.  The pictures that we included in our blogs captured only the surface of a few moments that your child tasted, breathed and prayed their way through.  The changes were subtle.  They happened when they realized they were sleeping comfortably under three walls and an aluminum roof.  It happened as they were served freshly ground coffee dripping from a cloth filter with steamed milk.  It happened as they realized that Tico’s have opened their homes and way of life to the many and varied animals and plants that are native to Costa Rica.  Most noticed the way people in the community flow from house to house and the way Ticos focus on their families. Find the time to really listen to what your children have experienced.  When was the last time you were awakened by Howler monkeys, parrots, or a chorus of roosters on a fine weekday morning?  There have been so many new tastes, sounds and sights to compare and contrast.  In these closing hours before they return home to summer reading, chores, beaches, relatives and college visits, we will task them one last time to share and reflect on what they have lived with the hope that you will be the recipient of their trials and triumphs.

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Costa Rica

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by Brian

Homestay at San Isidro:

First things first, there are chickens; lots of chickens around the house of my homestay family. From 3:00 a.m. onwards, all I could hear were the clucking and cockle-doodle-doo-ing of the chickens as I tried to fall back asleep in my bed. I would even say they’re even louder than the howler monkeys that kept me up in Tortuguero. During the laborious process, I reminisced back to the exact moment I arrived at my homestay.
I was feeling uneasy as I walked up to the front porch of the house, giving a proper greeting and introduction to my hosts, Johana and Misael, in Spanish. The problem is, that introduction was all the Spanish I know, and I was spending the night with a Spanish-only speaking family.  As bad as it seems to be unable to communicate verbally at all whatsoever, both the hosts were none-judgmental of my lack of Spanish skills. I was promptly offered a drink and a tour around the premises, which housed a number of livestock, pets, wildlife, and plants. Misael seemed to enjoy educating me on the terms they used for the plants and animals in the area, like pato (duck) or cacao (cocoa). Despite the language barrier, the family and I somehow communicated well, with the common understanding of laughter and mindset to work towards a common goal. What really surprised me is how rustic the land they lived in was, with minimal construction and making full use of what nature has given them.

The evening really put emphasis in how they share their living spaces with nature. There were a variety of insects that swarm the air, howler monkeys bellowing in the distance and bats swoop about as they hunt for a 6-legged meal. This night, I wasn’t particularly bothered by mosquitoes, thanks to the mosquito netting over my bed.  Simply put, I enjoyed my homestay.  I honestly expected much worse, but now I am grateful to have had a hands-on experience of what it is like to live in rural Costa Rica.

Back in the present, I continued to struggle to sleep then came dawn.  I eventually slipped out of bed and walked outside to admire my surroundings and greet the early rising pets of the locals. I had breakfast and coffee on the porch, which was then interrupted by my travel group’s arrival.  As soon as I glanced over and saw the bus, I scrambled to grab my belongings and thanked my hosts for giving me a wonderful experience, and left.

Once again, we continuing our work painting community plaza at Llanos Grandes. Under partly conditions, we scraped old paint off slides, swings and seesaws with sandpaper and promptly got a hold of our absolute favorite tools-the paint brush. We colored the facilities in a variety of colors ranging from blue to orange to pink, and let me tell you, it was a chore to coordinate everyone working efficiently (ironically).

After a scrumptious lunch made by the community mothers, we went straight back to painting, but now we are painting flower patterns on tires instead, and there are plenty of tires to go around. However, heavy rain came pouring abruptly as some of us quickly scramble to cover and some are resilient in completing their masterpieces. As the rain stopped, we concluded that our work in the plaza in done and loaded ourselves back onto the bus and readied the next round of homestay students. Funnily enough, there’s this feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that I felt as I walked off the plaza, as if contributing a small amount of work can impact the children of a community greatly.

Saying ironic farewells to this group of homestays wasn’t long-lived, as there was a special gathering this night with all the homestay families, much thanks to the SCLC coordinator, Francene. It was extremely nice to return and spend a little time with my original homestay family that night, as we are now in a more crowded and lively environment instead. The mothers in that part of the community prepared a special dinner for us, and let me tell you, the bread is utterly amazing. I should really be disgusted with myself by the way I absolutely devoured half a loaf. Knowing it was the second to last night we are going to spend together, everyone took part of a salsa dancing session. People laughed and cheered as they danced in the only lamp that shined under the starry night sky of Costa Rica.

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