Nueva's Middle School student exchange program started more than twenty-five years ago with a relationship between Nueva and a school in Japan. As Spanish and Mandarin were subsequently added to our school's language offerings, so were new exchange programs. Student exchanges greatly enhance Nueva's language program, which not only teaches children how to read and write in a particular language, but also teaches them about another country's culture. While studying other cultures, students gain insight into their own culture. As they learn to speak a language, they see important cultural differences and subtleties, as well as the interplay between language, society, and social interaction. Nueva educators believe that language is learned best in authentic contexts and the exchange program exemplifies this philosophy.
When children from other countries come to Nueva through the exchange program, our students get a glimpse into other cultures. And when our students travel abroad in eighth grade, they become independent, confident travelers who navigate cities, speak to denizens, attend local schools, and stay with local families. Our alumni often remark that their homestay was a powerful way to practice a language and to intimately experience another culture.
In preparation for eighth grade's overseas trips, spring semester's humanities class immerses students in cultural exploration. While abroad, students act as ethnographers by conducting independent field studies focused on particular aspects of the culture in China, Japan, or Spain. They consider how and where people make their beliefs visible and how dominant values in their host countries are revealed. In addition, everyone keeps a travel journal with specific writing assignments designed to deepen their understanding and experience while overseas.