Middle School Global Programs Excite Students and Faculty


As summer 2023 nears, applications for the Middle School’s Global Programs have been received, and numbers are at an all-time high. 2013 was the first year these trips were offered, and only 40 applications were submitted. However, this year, over 120 students have applied, which is well over capacity for the three trips offered. Moreover, more students have applied this year for three trips than in years when six trips were offered. This response was unexpected but very welcomed by the Global Programs team.

The purpose of the Global Programs is to help students broaden their horizons, make new connections with classmates, and enjoy off-campus experiences. Admission and available slots are competitive, as teachers are not able to accept nearly as many students as they would like. For example, the Italy program only accepts eighteen students, but each year, many applications are received.  

This year, three trips are being offered. They include Canada, Italy, and Spain. Also, students have the opportunity to host an exchange student this year, either from France, Italy, or Spain. Unfortunately, during the summer of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted these trips, postponing them for two years. Now, as school life becomes much more normal, teachers are getting excited about the programs’ relaunch. 

The trip to Canada is geared towards the 6th-grade science curriculum, and it allows students to experience nature while getting a break from technology. Shabanowitz states his favorite site on the trip and that its goal is to help encourage students to put their phones down and enjoy nature. “The highlight for me is when we actually go to the Columbia Ice Fields Glacier,” he says. “They’re learning life skills, how to not be around technology, and how to be in nature.”According to Shabanowitz, the group hikes up to ten miles a day, so the trip is a good option for students needing a break from the usual.

The Italy trip is in high demand this year, and advisors Jon Hathorn and Cynthia Swanson enjoy seeing students expand their knowledge and make new friends. Swanson definitely enjoys the sights, but at the end of the day, her favorite part is seeing the personal growth and development of each student. “I love being in the Ancient Roman world,” she says. “But actually, the reason this trip is worth taking is because we have students. Everybody on the trip is going to bring a willingness to try, a spirit of community, and a desire to learn and be curious.” Hathorn feels similarly, adding that the application process focuses on the student’s character and mindset. “A lot of it is also genuine interest on the part of the student and whether their goal for the trip matches what our goal for the trip is.” 

Finally, Spanish students have the amazing opportunity to travel to modern and historical cities in Spain while living with a host family. Spanish teacher and Global Program coordinator Zeke Hoyos advises the Spain trip and coordinates hosting opportunities as well. Global Programs started in 2013 and have since evolved in many positive ways. Hoyos explains that the focus of the program is to familiarize students with other cultures and give them unique viewpoints they can carry with them in future years. “Our goal was to develop reciprocal exchange,” he says. “We focus on the rigor and the curriculum that is taught here at Westminster, which is one of the stronger language programs in the country. But additionally, it’s something unique that you rarely see in study abroad programs,” he says. “Students actually have a voice in how the program is assigned.” 

Overall, the Middle School Global Programs have been a huge success in past years, and teachers plan to continue that success this spring and summer.