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Maymester Once Again Taking Upper School On Experiential Learning Journeys

Norfolk Academy launches its third Maymester program this spring, offering Upper School students unique opportunities to cap their sophomore and junior years.

Maymester is a two-week program in May and June offering an array of experiential learning, internships, and international travel. Among the opportunities in 2024: Exploration of Greece, Germany, and France; hiking the Appalachian Trail; and much more. The goal is that through their exploration, students will gain new interests and a better understanding of these many various topics.

This blog will be updated regularly during Maymester, which begins May 24 and continues until the close of the school year on June 6.

Friday, May 24

Day 1 of Maymester Internships was all about pre-professional training. Students spent the morning with Brooke Peccie ’13, Assistant Director of Career and Professional Development at Washington and Lee University, who helped them compose a professional resume, start a LinkedIn profile, and prepare for professional interviews. She also introduced them to the importance of networking, which they will begin in earnest next week as they engage with their internship supervisors and other professionals at the firms and practices at which they’ll be interning. Tuesday, they will launch out to 12 unique internships. 

Saturday, May 25

On their first day, Maymester: Spain students explored Museo del Prado, where they gave presentations on a piece of art they chose. As Dominic '25 said, “Everyone did an incredible job, and it augmented our experience here greatly. We saw paintings by Velázquez, Goya, Caravaggio, Bosch and more!" From there, the group marched into El Retiro, which is basically Madrid’s Central Park. “We had a very enjoyable time walking around and hanging out, getting the true experience of Madrid. We took a small reflection break, where we either wrote or thought about what has happened up to this point and what we are excited for in the future of this trip." ... “All of us are excited to be here, and it has already been a blast, even if it was a bit exhausting. With an auspicious first day, we can’t wait for what we will see next!"

After landing, Maymester: Germany took a long bus ride to Köln on the Autobahn. The Cologne Cathedral “was breathtaking, with its gothic arches and the flying buttresses," Owen '25 said. "The inside was just as incredible with the stained-glass windows and organs."

Sunday, May 26

Maymester: France took in a beautiful view of the English Channel, which separates parts of England and France. The group also toured the D Day Museum in Caen.

The Appalachian Trail team leaves May 28 for Shenandoah and the trail. First, students completed a two-day training, hiking, and camping trip to Virginia Beach's First Landing State Park. It included 15 miles of hiking in full gear.

Monday, May 27 

Maymester: Germany students were in class today, along with friends from our partner school Copernicus-Gymnasium in Loningen. Alexis '25 summed up the experience: “Their school is very different from NA. Firstly, the students at CGL don’t have the relationships with their teachers like we do at NA. Many of the teachers just teach the lessons without the personable element of the NA faculty. The CGL students that visited NA have said that they wish that they had relationships like we do with our teachers!"

Tuesday, May 28

Civil War Maymester spent the afternoon at Manassas National Battlefield Park learning about the life of a Civil War soldier with 3rd U.S. Regular Infantry Company K Reenactors.

Wellness Maymester was at Edgar Cayce's ARE in Virginia Beach, where students did yoga, walked the labyrinth, and demonstrated tai chi.

Wednesday, May 29

London Maymester reached that city about 7 a.m., and wasted little time. On the first day the group saw the Globe Theatre, Tower of London, and Tower Bridge. They learned about the theatre's history and the history of the Monarchy. On deck Thursday: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the British Museum. 

Silver '25 recaps Greece Maymester's day: We started the hike at Pynx and had the opportunity to learn more the importance of democracy within Greek history, not to mention a spectacular view of the Acropolis. The walk spanned across the entire city from the Pynx, then up to the Philopappos Monument, back down to Hadrian’s Arch, allowing for a quick view/discussion of Temple of Olympian Zeus. From there we reached our final stop on our orientation hike: St. George Chapel of Likavittos. 

Thursday, May 30

 

Pictured below: Joji '25 with the Max Media team, where she wrote, recorded, and produced her own radio commercial. Additionally, this week Internship students have observed surgeries, evaluated patients at a pediatric practice, helped execute a fundraiser for CHKD, learned how to interpret X-rays, learned how to pick interior design materials, cooked and taste tested a possible new product, and much more.

Several Maymester programs are serving our broader community. Among them: Students studying Nutrition volunteered at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and the group studying challenges of Poverty in America are helping build a home with the Eastern Shore of Virginia Habitat for Humanity.

Friday, May 31

Along the Border Maymester had an early wakeup call Thursday to fly to Atlanta and then El Paso, Texas. Despite the lack of sleep, the group was eager to get started. They will meet with government agencies responsible for controlling the border and peers at a partner school in El Paso, among other lessons. 

Digital Media Maymester has been experimenting with sports photography by shooting photos of Lower School Physical Education classes; students learned to edit those pictures in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Teacher-Coach Steven Goldburg '04, who also is a professional photographer, hosted a Media Day photoshoot where students learned how to use portable light banks, black and white backdrops, props, water spray, and canned fog to create dramatic sports photos. From these lessons, students created posters with their favorite photos. They also had a Zoom lesson with Ed Riew, Executive Producer of the New York-based company Urban Sled. He talked about how he created sports media at events such as Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Masters. The class has also had the chance to visit Harbor Park to learn about digital media for the Tides and shoot still photography and video footage of a game.

Saturday, June 1

After studying for a week in Hampton Roads, Architecture Maymester flew Friday to Chicago. After settling down the group went to tour Northwestern University’s architecture and viewed Lake Michigan. They then took the train to The Baháí House of Worship and learned about the Baháí religion.

Appalachian Trail's total mileage so far sits at 15 miles at First Landing (to train) and 26 miles through the ups and downs of the mountains, with 27 more to go. Said students in a blog: Being in a place where so many of the things we use on a daily basis are not available to us, our gratitude for the little things is growing extensively. Things like good weather, good food, cozy beds, and plumbing have all been things that we have found special appreciation for in a deeper place than we had before. The serenity of nature has allowed us to connect in a personal way with each other and given us time for introspection about our perspective on the world both here, and after we return on Tuesday.

Maymester in Peru is a Spanish language immersion program, giving students the chance to strengthen their skills in a second language through living with host families and traveling around the country. Among their visits: farming communities, Inca ruins, and a collective that teaches young students a trade.

Sunday, June 2

Maymester Spain students are enjoying the weekend with their host families. Many of them headed back into the city of Madrid for sightseeing a new location they were unable to see last weekend, and heading to visit the former capital of Spain, Toledo. Everyone was glued to the TV as the host futbol club, Real Madrid, played in the Champion's Cup final vs. Dortmund at Wembley Stadium. With Real Madrid winning 2-0, the city was abuzz in celebrations. The students will have more quality time with their hosts today and Monday before returning to school on Tuesday. 

Day 5 of Greece Maymester, from Sabrina '25 and Lucy '25: Today was a great chill day after all of the hiking, exploring, and standing we did yesterday. First we drove on the bus to the Temple of Poseidon, which was definitely the best view out of all the temples we have visited so far. Standing next to the temple, looking out at the ocean, we read Romantic poetry written by Lord Byron, whose name we found on the temple from when he visited years ago. We also walked down the path and climbed down to the water, which was so beautiful and clear. When we were done exploring the temple, we drove over to Lake Vouliagmeni, where we spent a very relaxing and fun afternoon swimming with the little fish in the lake, getting lunch, reading, and drawing. Following that, we finished off the day at the sea where we spent an hour or so on the beach and then had dinner on the water.

Along the Border started the morning with a trip to a farmers market to explore the meshing of the Texan and Mexican cultures. The group followed with a visit to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum to learn about the agricultural history of the borderlands. The group then took an afternoon trip to White Sands National Park, where everyone sledded down the dunes and enjoyed the breathtaking views.

Monday, June 3

ECO Maymester is giving students an appreciation for the nature, sustainability, and the environment by taking them through some of Virginia's most scenic state parks and mountains.

Today, Architecture Maymester toured the DuSable Black History Museum and discussed Chicago history before sketching the building. The group also checked out the Robie House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Everyone then toured the University of Chicago and analyzed the different architectural styles shown in the variety of buildings on campus. Finally, they stopped by Lakeshore East Park to sketch buildings that stood out.

Nutrition Maymester was at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center, run by Virginia Tech. The guide, Jayesh Samtani, talked about his research in strawberry and blackberry farming. A highlight for the students was eating blackberries right off the vine.

Tuesday, June 4

Along the Border watched the morning docket at the Las Cruces District Court, which consisted of deportation hearings of men ages 18-51. Most defendants were present for their initial appearance, but some received their final sentences. Students rounded out the morning by asking the magistrate judge questions about individual cases and his expertise.

Anna '25 in Spain: For the most part, we spent today with our exchange students, cherishing the little time we have left until we will return on Wednesday. Still, we look forward to tomorrow, when some of our exchange partners will be acting in the play, the House of Bernarda Alba, which many of us have read in our Spanish classes. We’re excited to see our friends and family, even though we’ll be sad to leave the new friends and family we made here.

On one of the final days of their program, London students saw Leeds Castle, the White Cliffs of Dover, Canterbury, the Thames River, and the London Eye. At the White Cliffs of Dover they saw the Battle of Britain Memorial, where they could view names of people who gave their lives in the aviary battle in 1940. They could also peer down the beautiful cliffs and crags that lead directly down to the English Channel.

Today, Wellness Maymester volunteered at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, packing food backpacks for children.

Wednesday, June 5

Lucas '25 in Spain: It was a bittersweet moment to see our school friends and say our goodbyes. Additionally, we even watched a play the school’s students performed that most of us read in class. We then departed from the school to begin where we started, in Madrid. Walking around the bustling streets and immersing ourselves in its liveliness, we got to take in our last moments. It’s sad to part ways with this beautiful country and its people but we are so excited for them to come to America.

Along the Border started the day at Weaving for Justice, a nonprofit organization that supports the Mayan culture by offering scholarship options and selling indigenous textiles. Everyone then went to the airport and met the Border Servant Corps before departing for Las Cruces. On the way, they enjoyed a spectacular view of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. They then attended a discussion with Freida Adams, former Director of Border Health for New Mexico, who shared dramatic stories of health care interventions she helped with at the border. They concluded the night with dinner at the retreat center with a survey and a special closing ceremony, where each student reflected and shared views on the trip.

Wellness this morning heard chamber music at the Sandler Center as part of the Virginia Arts Festival's Coffee Concert series. The program featured Olga Kern on piano as well as Wu Han (piano) and David Finckel (cello). The program included Mendelssohn, Brahms, Grieg, and Debussy. 

Thursday, June 6

Zachary '25 in Germany: After attending class during first bell, the exchange walked as a group to the Rathaus, the city hall, to meet the Bürgermeister (mayor) of Löningen. The Bürgermeister gave us a presentation about Löningen, as well as answering any questions we had. After the Rathaus, we went back to CGL and had our last classes with our exchange students. At 3 pm, both the German and American students met at school to begin our Bike Tour. 

Bela '25 in Spain: The final day of Spain was no doubt the hardest. Saying goodbye to our new best friends was a rough way to start our day. While we reflect on our amazing journey, our planning of the Spaniards' trip to the United States has officially begun. We all hope to give them the amazing experience we had these past twelve days. Our group as a whole has formed an impeccable bond, which will stay strong throughout our senior year.

Friday, June 7

Carmella '25 in Germany: After spending 10 days with our host families, we spent our last 15 minutes together sobbing, awaiting our next journey. This was our second, and maybe last for some, goodbye. Though living in a foreign country with a different family seemed daunting, many of us created created connections that would last a life time. We have found a second family and a second home. This small city of Löningen grew on us. The smells of farm animals, beautiful and open fields, and rocky paths of Löningen will forever be the physical manifestation of our home in Germany.

 

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