There are plenty of differences between Norfolk, Virginia, and Chia, Colombia. But there is also much the same.
That is a main lesson seven Colombian teenagers learned during their recent time at Norfolk Academy. While absorbing Academy's culture and touring American historical landmarks with NA students, they came to feel at home.
“We have differences, but at the same time, we have huge similarities," said Pamela Ospina, a coordinator at Colegio Bilingue Rochester, the school partnering with Norfolk Academy on this exchange program.
The Colombian students, along with Ms. Ospina and Spanish teacher Leo Betancourt, were here about two weeks. They arrived in late September, first spending a few days in Washington, D.C. Some of the students want to ultimately attend an American college, and they received a tour of Georgetown University from Taylor Harvey '18, who attends that school.
Once they came to Norfolk, they began learning about Academy life. They became part of Upper School chapel, giving a presentation about Colombia and their school. They noticed similarities and differences - the facilities and structure of courses are alike, but their school has closed lockers and they appreciated NA's openness and level of trust.
They also learned about how NA students balance academics with extracurricular and other activities, by staying at their homes.
Lucas, one of the exchange students, was impressed by NA's Honor System. But one of his favorite parts of the stay was spending time with Christopher Asuncion '21, his host. The two tried out various American foods and had fun playing board and video games.
This experience helped assimilate Lucas into American culture, he said. That was valuable because he wants to attend college here.
“It was a good bonding opportunity," Christopher said.
NA students in the exchange will travel to Colombia next spring. While there, the third-year Spanish language students will live with a host family and enjoy sites around Bogota, a major city near Chia. They will also study special topics at Colegio Bilingue Rochester, including that school's unique sustainability efforts.
The Colombian exchange is just one offered at Norfolk Academy. Students from France are currently visiting our school, and third-year French students will later study at Saint Dominique, which is a short ride from the heart of Paris. Exchanges also exist between NA and schools in China, Germany, Argentina, and Spain.
Academy emphasizes global learning, and offers several other opportunities for students to study abroad.
Colombian students said “hasta luego" or “see you later" to their new Academy friends on October 13, taking a group photo in The Pit. They will reunite in May.
This is the first year of the Colombian exchange. Taylor Winn, Upper School Spanish teacher and Colombian exchange coordinator, said it has been a success.
Ms. Ospina agreed.
“We feel grateful," she said. “It has been a great, once-in-a-lifetime experience."
To see more exchange photos and learn about the Academy International Programs, visit the Twitter feed.