Exchange Students

Alhmudena 2-Ibante SmallwoodGroton School Global Education is in charge of the exchange student program at Groton.  Since the majority of Groton’s exchange students usually come from places that Groton has gone to for global education trips, the two programs work hand in hand.

The idea behind this is that Groton has received hospitality from certain schools on global trips, so in return Groton hosts some of their students as exchange students.  Last year Groton hosted seven exchange students: one from France, two from Tanzania, three from India, and one from South Africa.

There are certain things that are expected of exchange students who come to Groton.  They should live in dorms and participate in extra-curricular activities, sports, and service.  Nishad Das, the head of the program, put it simply by saying, “They should become members of the community.”  If students aren’t able to fill their schedules with relevant courses, they can use that extra time to “self-study.”  This means that they can do work for their school back home or pursue a different academic endeavor.  Mr. Das says, “We like to give our exchange students lots of options.”

The exchange student who is currently living on campus, Almudena Freire, is from Lima, Peru.  She said that Groton is very different but also mentioned that everyone is very friendly and welcoming to her.  This is her first time in a boarding school setting, and she said that her dorm, Marks, is a lot of fun.

Her only criticism came after going to the dance on Saturday, saying, “You can’t dance to the kind of music you guys listen to.”

As the exchange student program grows at Groton, one large challenge presents itself: there aren’t enough beds.  The school is over-capacitated, and it is difficult to find space for all of the exchange students that Groton wants to host.  Mr. Das said that the solution for this is to have true “exchange students.” This means that Groton will send a student to a certain school and have that school send a student to Groton for the same amount of time.

This spring, there will be a pilot program to test this, in which two Fourth Form boys will go to Doon School and two Fourth Form girls will go to Welham School.  Both schools, located in India, will send two students to Groton.  This will give Groton students the chance to go on a global education trip without using one of their breaks.  These trips, lasting six weeks, will also be longer than other global education trips.  The addition of these trips will help Groton host more exchange students.

If the pilot program is a success, Groton School Global Education plans to start trips like these with more schools around the world.  Feedback about the experience from students will also help improve the program. Different schools already want to join up with Groton in the future to swap students.  Two of these schools in the UK, Bedlales and Chaltenham, the latter of which Endicott Peabody attended.

Exchange students who come to Groton have much to learn about American culture and boarding school life.  Exchange students also add more diversity to the community and allow Groton students to learn more about other cultures by living with people from different places.

The idea of an exchange student is not only about exchanging students but also about exchanging cultures.  As the exchange student program continues to develop, Groton will continue to embrace diversity.

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