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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, April 18, 2024
HomeNewsLocal news@School: Montessori Prepares to Welcome Madrid Students

@School: Montessori Prepares to Welcome Madrid Students

Marissa Bornn and Caleb Potter will be exchange students in Spain. (Photo by Gloria Zakers)Excitement’s building within the Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy for the start of the school’s first full-blown student exchange program.

Ten seventh and eighth grade students from St. Thomas – six girls and four boys – have signed up to spend six weeks in Spain next spring. Their families will first host students from the Eurocolegio Casvi School just outside of Madrid.

The Eurocolegio Casvi students arrive in the Virgin Islands Jan. 8 and will stay until Feb. 20. The St. Thomas group will travel to Spain a week later and stay until April 8.

The program fits perfectly into VIMSIA’s Spanish infusion efforts as well as its mission of helping children to develop a “global mindset,” according to Michael Bornn, head of school.

The two schools are both part of the International Baccalaureate Organization, which is designed to promote intercultural understanding and to prepare students for life in a fast-shrinking world.

Gloria Zakers, director of the International Academy at VIMSIA, said Eurocolegio Casvi approached the V.I. school with the idea last spring.

The Madrid School has partnered with a few U.S. schools in the past in international exchange programs, she said. It’s the first time for VIMSIA.

“We had a small version” of an exchange program several years ago, she added, but nothing like this.

The two schools have been working out the details for months, including recruiting participants and host families, setting up schedules, getting U.S. student visas for the Spanish students, and planning special activities.

The program was open to seventh and eighth graders in good academic standing, whose families were willing to sponsor their travel, Zakers said. Costs are relatively low because the students will stay with families in the host country.

They will spend time at the host school and will attend some classes, but won’t earn academic credits. Zakers explained that was one of the reasons behind the decision to limit the program to students below the high school level – so it won’t affect their high school records and rankings.

Eighth grader Caleb Potter and seventh grader Marissa Bornn listed all the right reasons for their decision to participate in the exchange.

“It could really help me with my Spanish,” said Potter, who is at level three in his studies. Additionally “I felt that it was going to be an amazing experience … St. Thomas is not a big place” and this is a chance to get exposure to the wider world.

“I have always wanted to travel internationally,” Bornn said. So far, her only trips have been to the U.S. mainland. She’s at phase two in her Spanish courses and believes the language immersion will benefit her studies.

Beyond the scholarly motivations, both students have some more personal reasons for their interest in spending six weeks in Madrid.

“They have a very good mall,” Bornn said. Also, “I’m looking forward to learning how to flamenco dance.”

“I’m very big on playing soccer,” Potter said, hoping there will be opportunity to see some of the world’s best players.

Potter knows he may have to deal with homesickness. He’s spent time away before, but never this long and always with relatives. If there is a twinge, he’s guessing it won’t be much, and he said he’s looking forward to meeting the family he’ll be living with in Spain.

Bornn has an advantage in that quarter; her mother, Brigitte Bornn, will be a chaperone.

Before the VIMSIA students are guests, they will be hosts to the students from Madrid.

Zakers said there will be a number of group activities for the visitors. Plans are ongoing; possible excursions include boating, hiking on St. John, the zip line on St. Thomas, Coral World marine park, and a movie night on Water Island.

There also will be events to involve the whole school, she said, perhaps a welcome beach picnic or other gathering, and of course the Madrid students will interact with VIMSIA students in classes and regular school activities. 

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