International trips help shape the perspective of students and faculty


Sophie Chehab, Assistant Arts&Style Editor

The life of an American high school student is filled with sports practices, homework, chores and making plans for the weekend. Although these obligations are important, it is also necessary to step back and remember that not all teenagers around the world live this way.

Many Chantilly students and staff members have traveled the world to shape their perspective and learn about other cultures through first-hand experiences.

Fairfax County Public Schools’ International Study Travel-Service Learning Program (ISTP) provides students with unique opportunities to extend their learning by traveling abroad. For example, students can further develop their Spanish skills with an immersion trip to Spain, work with the indigenous people of Peru to build villages or discuss the impact of technology at the Global Leadership Summit in Berlin.

Chantilly’s French program offers travel abroad opportunities every other summer and is planning a trip to Paris and Perpignan, France with an excursion to Barcelona, Spain. The program offers a study abroad experience for both French teens and Chantilly students. During the fall, French students came and stayed with Chantilly families. This summer, Chargers will head across the Atlantic to stay with the same people who they hosted earlier this school year.

World Language department chair and French teacher Mary Bouchet is planning her sixth exchange and is excited for the program to continue to grow.

“Planning the trips is a lot of work, but there’s a lot of payoff,” Bouchet said. “The payoff is when I get to see my students connect with others through a language that’s not their own.”

Many students have made lasting friendships through the program and are looking forward to this summer’s trip.

“My French exchange student, Elisa, and I really connected when she visited in the fall,” senior Vienna Husson said. “I’m really excited to see her again and meet her friends and family.”

Social studies teacher Stacey Schweppe, who has taken her students on three other trips abroad, will be chaperoning the Global Leadership Summit trip over spring break of 2018.

“[Students on the trip will] have the chance to work with about 2,000 other students from around the globe to problem-solve and find solutions to the question they’re presented with,” Schweppe said.

On this trip, students will also have the chance to learn about renewable energy.

They’ll travel to Heidelberg and Freiburg, Germany, which are both centers of renewable resources,” Schweppe said. “The centers use technological sources and advancements to extend resources.”

Many students took advantage of the opportunities offered by ISTP and visited Ecuador this past spring break, along with social studies teacher Angie Rollet. Students practiced their Spanish skills and helped build a schoolhouse for a community.

“It rained a lot when we were there, so we didn’t get to make as much progress as we hoped for, but every step counts and I still had a great time,” junior Paayal Chandra said.

Others enjoyed befriending children in the neighborhood.

“My favorite part was the first day we went to the community. [The kids] were really excited to meet us,” senior Hilary Anderson said. “They did really interesting rituals for us and it was cool to see how they live.”

Many teachers encourage their students to seize the opportunity to travel abroad.

“It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and explore the world, new cultures and new food,” Schweppe said. “Traveling helps open your mind and gives you a new perspective on the world around you.”