This post includes contributions from faculty advisors Christian Cousins, Ann Robideux, Matt Tramontana and Brent Ferguson.
During the first half of Princeton Day School’s March 2022 spring break, more than 35 Upper School (US) students and faculty advisors embraced the opportunity to explore and connect for a week through two International Travel Program experiences: immersive learning at The Island School on Eleuthera in the Bahamas and a jam-packed itinerary of math and cultural studies across Greece. The return of these educational and life changing trips restores the heart of the School’s Global Studies programming and marks the first time since 2019 that international travel has been possible for PDS during the pandemic.
The Island School
Designed to focus on green living and green thinking and located on a completely sustainable campus, The Island School offers fully immersive and fascinating projects in a spectacular tropical setting. As an extension PDS sustainability programming opportunities, the Island School has been a beloved spring break global travel option for US students and faculty advisors for many years prior to Covid.
This year, faculty advisors Christian Cousins, Matt Tramontana and Ann Robideaux participated in the experience along with several students. Robideux remarked on the exceptional nature of the program: “There aren’t many trips where the first things you are asked to do is to take a swim test, jump off a cliff and take ‘navy showers’ for a week in an effort to conserve water…”
The week of learning at The Island School included not only cliff jumping but also snorkeling, exploring a deserted naval base, lessons on microplastics, documenting native flora and fauna while swimming in a blue hole and exploring the local tidal pools. It also offered a team-building and experience built around the environment and the critical importance of sustainability practices.
Students reflected on a memorable trip that introduced many to experiences they had never before encountered. Kelly Christie ’24 said, “Exploring the cave dwellings and learning about the first people to ever live in the Bahamas was so fascinating! It’s one part of the trip that really meant a lot to me.” Julian Liao ’23 said the environmental focus and learning experiences were eye-opening, and the opportunity to “really get out of your comfort zone and try any new thing that was presented to you” is something he will always keep with him going forward.
Robideux agreed that the trip touched on many important areas of life and opened up each student in a meaningful way. “There is no doubt that each student returned home more deeply aware of the interconnectedness of each of us on the planet,” she noted.
This year’s once-in-a-lifetime journey through Greece was carefully designed to pursue a deeper understanding of the rich academic and cultural legacy of Greece with a particular focus on its contributions to the field of mathematics. Faculty advisors Brent Ferguson, Lauren Ledley and Amy Beckford had high expectations for their large group of student travelers, and they were thrilled with the results.
Ferguson reflected, “In the course of achieving our academic and cultural study goals, these travelers gained so much more: enjoying yummy food and traditional Greek dancing; successfully navigating a multitude of safety, vaccine and testing protocols; meeting local residents, shopkeepers and scholars/guides; and growing in friendships and collegiality. Students brought home more than just ceramics, t-shirts and journals full of notes about archaeological insights—they returned with hearts full of gratitude for the gift of sharing a PDS education, including the opportunity to travel and learn together overseas. We all express a hearty, ‘efharisto!’”
The trip was filled with adventures and insights, with highlights that included tours of archaeological ruins and temple remains in Olympia, Mycenae, Corinth and Athens; excursions through several fascinating museums, facilitated by expert guides; explorations of Plato's Academy, the Acropolis, and theaters including Dionysus and at Epidaurus; and direct study of the inventions of Archimedes. There was even a run-in with a carrier of the 1984 Olympic tour, whom the students and faculty met in the village of Olympia after spending the morning in the original stadium of the ancient games!
Whether it was their first trip outside of the United States or their first trip in the last two years, every student who attended either of this year’s PDS Global Program journeys will undoubtedly be influenced forever by these exceptional opportunities and experiences.
Please enjoy this beautiful Flickr album with photos and videos provided by our fabulous faculty advisors!