Global Education

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Links to trip blogs

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Safe travels!

Trips abroad are designed one year in advance. Students and adult trip leaders work together for more than four months to prepare for their travels. You can travel vicariously through their websites and blogs.

Middle School trips, dates, trip leaders, and links  

Costa Rica | March 12–24
Spencer White, Jesse Lowes, and Li-Ling Cheng
» Trip Website
» Blog

France | March 12–24
Katie Gunderson, Len Carr, Chris Bell
» Blog

Peru | March 12–21
Yen-Ling Wang, Paul Andrichuk
» Trip Website
» Blog

Upper School trips, dates, trip leaders, and links 

Nepal | March 16 – April 3
David Ellenberg, Veronica Ledoux
» Trip Website
» Blog

Chile and Argentina | March 16 – April 4
Dave Whitson, Hannah Carr, Greg Bennick
» Trip Website
» Blog

French newspaper article about Catlin Gabel group visit

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Article in La Depeche, France

Where in the world are CG students?

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Mid-March is go time for Catlin Gabel’s global education program. Five groups, three from the Upper School and two from the Middle School, are spread across three continents.

Upper School students are traveling to Guatemala, France, and China.

Middle School students are traveling to Costa Rica and Taiwan.

» Visit the global education section of the website for trip details and to follow student blog posts 


Welcome to our friends from Gifu Kita School in Japan!

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Fourteen students and two teachers from Gifu Kita Senior High School in Japan are visiting Catlin Gabel from January 4 to 11.

Catlin Gabel and Gifu Kita have had a sister school relationship since 1992. We value our shared history of hosting students in homestays and classrooms, and introducing each other to our respective cultures. We have learned so much from each other!

For a real treat, come to the Upper School assembly on Monday, January 7, from 11:25 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. Our guests from Japan always put on an amazing performance at this highlight event.

More about Gifu Kita High School 

Gifu Kita Senior High School is located in the north end of Gifu City in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. For more than 70 years, Gifu Kita High School has prided itself on academic excellence and its ability to provide a wide range of extracurricular activities to its more than 1,000 students.

As one of the top-ranked schools in Gifu Prefecture, almost all of their students apply to go to university following graduation, with the vast majority attending private or national universities.

Gifu Kita also offers a wide range of sports and cultural clubs. A number of these clubs have participated in National and Tokai District Competitions over the last few years.


Open your heart and home to an exchange student

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2012-13 exchange students

Catlin Gabel is honored to welcome exchange students to our community each year. Our exchange students are carefully selected merit scholars who are ready for Catlin Gabel’s academic and linguistic challenges.

We host these kids with the goal of learning as much from them as we can. Our community benefits deeply as our exchange students push us to question assumptions and broaden our perspectives. If you are interested in hosting an exchange student, please read our Q&A and contact Spencer White with questions.

Year-Long Upper School Exchange Students

Belén Placencia Levenfeld, from Spain, is 15 years old and comes to us through the ASSIST program, which selects students by merit for placement in U.S. independent schools. She will attend CG as a sophomore for the entire academic year. Her interviewers said that, “Belén (or Belu) will bring to her American school a sharp mind, a strong work ethic, and an impressive record of academic achievement. Belén also has strong athletic interests and talents. In addition, she thoroughly enjoys acting in school drama productions, is currently attending an acting school in Madrid, and even thinks of theater as something she would like to have at the center of her adult life. We found Belu to be an adventurous girl, with sharp sense of humor evident, very pleasant and engaging, with lots of interests.”

Xiaotian Zhang, from Shanghai, China, also comes to us through the ASSIST program. She is an all-star student at Fudan High School with a penchant for international relations and English. Xiaotian has traveled to Great Britain and Japan and is involved in singing, ballet, traditional Chinese dance, street dance, and ceramics. She participates in MUN, is a member of the school debate team, and is a cheerleader. In her personal statement Xiaotian says, “My dreams are simple but require resolute determination and constant hard work. I want to make the world a better place. I want the world to see me one day.”


Mpho Bowie-Molefe comes to us from Maru-a-Pula School (MaP) in Gaborone, Botswana, as our sixth MaP Scholar. Our relationship with MaP has been one of mutual respect and admiration as they continue to send us globally minded students of impressively high academic and interpersonal caliber. Mpho is here for the entire 12th grade academic year. “Mpho is a rare quality student,” said his interviewers. “He is wonderfully engaging, admired by his peers and a perceptive and capable learner. It is not often that you find students as well balanced as Mpho is; he is a star athlete on the school rugby team and an effortless, academically capable student that is always willing to give of himself.” Mpho is dedicated to several community service projects, including a service project where he taught primary school children in a disadvantaged area of Gaborone how to read. He has been part of a group of senior students who raised funds and delivered food packages and grocery items to poor families on the outskirts of the city. Mpho would like to become an engineer with a specific focus on developing green energy technologies for Africa.

Short-Term Guatemalan Upper School Students
Experiencias Interculturales Program
October 21 – December 15

Luis Esteban Greñas Vettorazzi, 15, will spend two months as part of our freshman class. He is excited to spend time with a “real” American family, improve his English skills, and experience Portland culture. Luis is a photographer, the main journalist of his school newspaper, and a lover of nature and animals. He is a determined and outspoken young man who’s not afraid to speak his mind on any number of topics.



Andrea María Reyes López, 17, will join our junior class. Her parents, both in the medical field, are eager for Andrea to take this step toward independence, improve her English skills, and meet American peers. She was class president last year and this year, school council president. She is described as “concerned about others,” as seen in her consistent weekend trips to see both sets of grandparents. She is also a dancer, an artist, and a lover of music.


Short-Term Guatemalan Middle School Students
Experiencias Interculturales Program
October 21 – December 15

Xim-Mei Ju Li, 13, is one of two Guatemalan students who will spend two months in our Middle School as a 7th grader during her own summer vacation. Xim is trilingual in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Her interests include tennis, soccer, squash, racquetball, reading, and watching movies. She loves Taylor Swift and everything country music. Xim wants to augment her global travels (having been to China once) and improve her English.


Jorge José Trujillo Herrera, 14, will join us as an 8th grader. Jorge is especially keen on staying with a family with a host brother. He has a mellow demeanor, is a natural athlete, and takes a lot of pride in balancing his academics with sports. Jorge comes from a close-knit family that is involved with the church and spending ample time with their extended family. He is eager to improve his English ability in his 60-day stay with us.

Travel Makes You Stronger

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Middle Schoolers prepare well for travel to Martinique--and come back changed
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”—Marcel Proust
“Traveling outside the country has made me so brave. If I didn’t travel to Martinique, I don’t think I would have grown so much with my French skills. Also, now I will be able to travel to more places and be more confident.” —Student traveler
March 2012 will mark the third trip for Catlin Gabel’s 7th and 8th grade French students to Sainte-Marie, a town on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Similarly, middle schoolers from Le Collège Emmanuel Saldès of Sainte-Marie have come to Portland twice. What our young travelers learn as guests in the home of their famille d’accueil (host family) serves them well when it is their turn to host the following year. The experience gives more meaning to the word “empathy” and fosters serious reflection on being on both the receiving and giving end of an exchange.
“In the beginning a lot of the things that I feared would happen did happen, although in the long run none of those things mattered: Not liking a meal, or not falling asleep at night. None compares to the things I gained and the great memories.” —Student traveler
Our students are asked to think about the differences between experiencing a place abroad as a traveler, as opposed to as a tourist. They quickly become aware that, unlike a vacation where one seeks to satisfy one’s yearning for pleasure and relaxation, the guiding principles of our exchange are openness, collaboration, and a readiness to have one’s comfort zones stretched.
“Going to Martinique with the idea of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone really made the trip so much better than if we had just made it a vacation for relaxation.” —Student traveler

A brief historical perspective

 Martinique was a French colony until 1946. In 2003, it was named a French Région d’outre-mer (overseas region). Slavery was abolished in Martinique in 1846, but discriminatory practices lingered until 1946. The scars, though fading, are still part of the collective memory of the majority, the Martiniquans of color. French is the official language, but créole, the language spoken by all Martiniquans of color, is given the proper consideration as a legitimate language. The small white minority continues to control nearly all of the island’s economy. When visiting Martinique, my students become aware of how this Caribbean culture was shaped, that the grandparents of their host brother or sister grew up in a very different Martinique, and that this past has had an effect on the family they are visiting.

Pre-trip, on-site, and post-trip work

Before we leave, we hold several meetings where we not only discuss logistics, but also touch on the history and some of the cultural traits and experiences the students might encounter during their two-week stay there. I ask the students to consider certain questions in writing before their departure, including: What are your goals during this time away, what are you nervous or excited about, what impressions or expectations do you have of the host country, and what does it mean to you to be a citizen from your native country or culture? During the trip, reflections continue: what similarities do you see, what differences, what has surprised you the most, what do you miss the most from home, how is your language-learning going, how does the host culture seem to view American culture? Finally, at the end of the year, the students evaluate the trip and write about the challenges and successes they experienced.
“No matter where I went in Martinique, there was something different from the life I live. It was about discovering past the vanishing point of my experience.” —Student traveler
We also address the bigger question of what the term citizen of the world means to these students. We go through a list of resiliency tools that each one of us can find within ourselves at various times. For example, everyone can relate to the meaning of patience, assertiveness, honesty, kindness, respect, humor, courage, detachment, consideration, flexibility, and gentleness. We may not be able to practice each one all the time, nor all at once, but if we can remind ourselves that we do have the option (or the opportunity!) to use one of these tools at various times of need, we will most likely end up feeling empowered, less stuck, and able to move on. We talk about possible testy situations that might come up during the stay and then consider which tools would be most helpful to get through these.
“The things that went wrong turned out to be moments of laughter and memories.” —Student traveler
Values can manifest themselves differently within a culture, but there most likely will be an even sharper distinction between cultures. At home, we have the benefit of knowing what it takes to makes us feel secure, satisfied, fulfilled. There are handy “feel-good” points of reference to resort to and, as we grow within a culture, we learn which points of reference to turn to in times of need. Abroad, the more the culture is different from ours, the more we need to turn to our sense of resourcefulness and observation for a sense of stability and orientation. We need not feel like we’re lost, or fragile, or vulnerable.
“Everything I experienced, good and bad, was helpful to my understanding and learning.” —Student traveler
As we observe people doing things differently from us, we can remember that we need not feel threatened or destabilized, but can simply let others be who they are. Being gentle with ourselves allows us to be gentle with others and not be afraid. We can simply observe the differences and allow enough space to connect, get closer, and navigate our way with greater ease.
“I understand so much more now about my culture, other cultures, my classmates, and myself. . . . I saw what everything really was instead of what everything was supposed to be.” —Student traveler
We recently visited Mercy Corps to prepare for our trip with various activities. When we had to relate an important event in our life without using words, it led us to brainstorm about the meaning of communication. To our big surprise, the one word that was not mentioned until the very end was “language.” Then when we looked at what we understood culture to be, we recognized the strong interconnection between culture and language. It was encouraging for those who would like to be a little more fluent in French as they are heading to Martinique to see that a great deal of communication can still occur without the use of language. We considered behaviors and beliefs that we as a group have in common, and realized that we were actually talking about culture. This led us to see how culture shapes how we see the world, and how we see ourselves and others. We become much more in tune with how much we are shaped by our culture when we go abroad.
“You don’t really know what life is like in a new place until you live it, and staying with a family teaches you a lot.” —Student traveler
Another pre-trip activity had to do decision-making styles: Am I a compromiser, avoider, joint problem-solver, accommodator, or controller? Once we had analyzed our style, we read about its advantages and drawbacks in different situations. Then we thought about how we might use a different decision-making style in different scenarios. Some of us switched our styles to match the situation, while others tended to stay the same for most situations.
“The trip teaches us skills that will be very helpful to know later on, such as speaking up for ourselves, trying new things, and being completely open to new experiences.” —Student traveler
Finally, we talked about how easy it is for us to assume what is coming next in a situation and to guess at meaning before we know enough about it. But withholding judgment and taking in details of a situation before we interpret it must occur before we can evaluate it. This important practice will prepare the traveler to work towards win-win interactions.
“There were times that I knew I was supposed to be there . . . and there were also times when I felt left out, bored, or angry. But there wasn’t a single time that I wished I wasn’t there.” —Student traveler
It would be unfair to expect resiliency from our traveling students if we did not prepare them well for their adventure abroad. We would be remiss to let them think that the only challenges they will face abroad might be a language barrier and being far from home and their familiar lifestyle. The journey of getting in touch with ourselves individually and as a group has started. It has sensitized us to the necessity of an open mind as we prepare for Martiniquan families to welcome us into their homes.
“While I was there, I thought the best times were just hanging out with my American friends doing something fun, or watching something beautiful. But now that I look back on it, I think that the best times really were just being dorky with my home stay and really connecting with her family. When we were able to connect, we could really understand each other despite the language barrier.” —Student traveler
Monique Bessette was raised in Québec City. She came to Catlin Gabel in 1997 after having taught at Valley Catholic High School. She has taught in Upper School and is now the Middle School French teacher. Aside from the Martinique trip, she has led six other international trips with students to France and Québec.


China’s Little Companion Art Troupe photo gallery

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Our guests gave a memorable performance!

From the website: “The 800-member CWI Children's Palace Little Companion Art Troupe is the first of its kind in Shanghai, and is also China's most famous children's art troupe. Founded in 1955 by Soong Ching Ling (Mme. Sun Yat-sen), honorary president of the People's Republic of China, it includes seven companies where children are trained in singing, dancing, musical instruments, acting, folk theatrical arts, calligraphy, painting and handicrafts.”

» Learn more about the troupe 


Great photos, all of them! Glad we could have even more talented students in our theater and on our stage!

Learning About Education Through Travel: L'Ecole Secretaire

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From the Fall 2011 Caller

By Siobhan Furnary '13

We strutted along the cracked sidewalk for about one and a half miles until we arrived at the school. It was the first time I’d seen a cloudy, hazy sky during our time in Kaolack, Senegal, a rural town populated by about 172,000 Senegalese.
As we passed a multitude of one-story homes along the main pothole-riddled street, a worn, white-stucco building, better known as “L’école secrétaire,” or “Secretary School,” loomed ahead. A group of 18 young women and just a few men, all in their early twenties, waited outside with handbags and meticulously done hair and makeup. Although a session of chatting and gossiping seemed essential before a morning of two two-hour classes, five or six students welcomed me with a gentle high-five followed through by a clasp at the hands.
Once their principal unlocked barred double doors, the students flooded inside, most making their way to the morning’s lecture class.
Women reached into their handbags, whipping out notebooks and pens as the lecturer began his talk on subjects unfamiliar to me as he spoke in French. My eyes couldn’t help but wander around the room while he gave his talk: a narrow, rectangular shaped classroom, with turquoise-painted walls, a chalkboard, wooden desks stretched down the room, and framed windows that peered down into a concrete courtyard—a lecture hall that would feel misplaced almost anywhere in the U.S. The second and last class of the morning was a proctored two-hour class, led by a computer program designed to teach the prospective secretaries how to type efficiently. Pairs of two shared a computer, much like the Macs we had thrown out of our garages years ago, and took turns striving to perfect the exercises at hand.
Although the young men and women weren’t enrolled in journalism, philosophy, environmental science, or neurology classes, their collegiate education promptly gave them the confidence to seek a secretarial position, exceeding their own and their families’ expectations.  

Catlin Gabel now makes it possible, through financial aid funds, for every Middle and Upper School student to participate in at least one global education trip abroad during their years at Catlin Gabel.



Learning About Education Through Travel: A School Day in Senegal

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From the Fall 2011 Caller

By Hannah Hay-Smith

In the spring of 2011 we, a group of 14 students, embarked on our trip to Senegal. The goal was to improve our French, explore a new culture, and work with a program called 10,000 Girls. Viola Vaughn created 10,000 Girls to help Senegalese girls stay in school and to teach them entrepreneurial skills. We spent a week doing home stays, in Kaolack, with some of these girls.
I lived with an 18-year-old named Mhakbé, who attended the public high school. Every day she walked two miles to her overpopulated school, which consisted of three concrete buildings and a large soccer field. On my first day of school, we had morning track and field. Each exercise was a competition, in which the most and least athletic students in the class were revealed. The most competitive of these activities was the high jump. We jumped, one at time, over the elevated bar and landed on the mat below. If you successfully cleared the bar and stuck your landing, you passed on to the next round. The other students, along with the gym teacher, judged each high jumper. I passed the first two rounds, but in the third round I hit the bar on the way over. The class snickered as I joined the other girls who had already been eliminated. I felt annoyed that the teacher let us be publicly humiliated and realized that no Catlin Gabel teacher would allow our peers to laugh at us, as he did. It was a reminder of the differences between the two schools.
In the afternoon, we attended math class. The room was dimly lit and crowded with students. The girls sat in the front of the room, while the boys were seated in the back. Once we’d taken our seats, the teacher, a tall Senegalese man, read everybody’s test scores aloud. For the second time that day I was surprised. I hadn’t taken the test, but I could still feel how embarrassing it would be to have my test scores read aloud.
As Mhakbé and I left her school, we walked by a pair of goats nibbling on grass. I realized that even if the classes and teachers were different than Catlin Gabel’s, some things were still the same: the kids were still eager to learn and still hard-working, and even six thousand miles away they still had goats on their school campus.  


Catlin Gabel now makes it possible, through financial aid funds, for every Middle and Upper School student to participate in at least one global education trip abroad during their years at Catlin Gabel.


Learning About Education Through Travel: Botswana 2011--An Education About Education

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From the Fall 2011 Caller

Botswana 2011: An Education About Education

By Fiona Noonan '12

Africa. When presented with this word, a litany of adjectives may swirl through one’s mind. One may stand above the rest, though: uneducated. While it is true that many people in Africa—as in all parts of the world—lack access to schools, supplies, and teachers, “uneducated” by no means describes this entire continent of extremely diverse people. A brilliant counterexample to the label “uneducated” is Botswana, a southern African republic whose national focus on schooling deserves attention, and certainly changed my perspective on what getting an education truly means.
This summer, a group of 13 Upper School students accompanied by our chaperones, science teacher Aline Garcia-Rubio ’93 and Richard Kassissieh, director of technology and learning innovation, traveled to Botswana for a trip that primarily revolved around interacting with people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Since Botswana is the country with the second-highest HIV infection rate in the world, we aimed to educate ourselves about the virus and its ramifications—and to help those affected by it—to the extent possible. To achieve that end we tutored and played with HIV-positive children, painted a mural at a pediatric HIV clinic called the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence, and engaged in dialogues with teens and adults about the effects of HIV and AIDS on Botswana’s culture and society. However, the unifying theme of all these activities extended beyond connections to HIV/AIDS. Each of our discussions, interactions, and services exposed us to something even greater: education.
Our trip took us all over Botswana, starting in the capital city of Gaborone, where we boarded at our sister school, Maru-a-Pula. MAP was our first encounter with any type of educational institution. Interestingly, as we discovered by living on campus, befriending the students, and attending classes, the term “sister school” extends beyond the mere relationship between CGS and MAP. In many ways, MAP perfectly mirrored Catlin Gabel in its large outdoor campus, commitment to service learning, and relatively small class sizes. Catering to wealthier families and very intelligent students, and widely considered one of the best high schools in Botswana, the parallels between the two schools were unmistakable.
While in Gaborone we also did various works of service through which we came across a completely different type of education. One of our main projects was a week-long project implementing a tutoring program for children at the Botswana Baylor Centre. Though an overwhelming 90% of children in Botswana go to school, one study has found that most are not doing well. In helping these children with basic math skills, we were able to provide essential practice in a one-onone format likely unavailable at their schools. Not every child expressed an interest in math, but to see even a few of them succeed was exciting. Despite any language barriers, I came to see math as a truly universal language, and I felt proud that our teaching had positively impacted the kids’ lives.
Our group departed from Gaborone and visited towns and villages farther north in the country. One of the villages we went to was Thabala, the tiny home town of alumna Mmaserame Gaefele ’11. We spent time with her family, who gave us a tour of everything, including the school. The fact that such a small town had a school surprised us, and as students rushed out of the schoolyard to follow us, we found out that it was not uncommon for such a school to exist. In fact, we discovered that almost every village in Botswana has some type of school, giving an incredible number of students the opportunity to learn and succeed in hopes of eventually going to a university.
This widespread access to teaching and learning is made possible by Botswana’s federal government, which allocates an overwhelming 21% of its total budget to education. As a result, every child can attend school, and can then, if accepted, attend the University of Botswana for free. The government will even pay for medical school anywhere in the world in hopes that students will return to Botswana and join the highly understaffed medical workforce. Based on these facts, the access to education in Botswana appears to be solid. However, as we travelled farther north to the village of Gumare, we experienced a slightly darker side of schooling in Botswana.
In Gumare we met pen pals with whom we had been corresponding. Our arrival marked the first day of their high school winter break. Though their real vacation had just begun, we learned that they had recently finished a five-week break of a very different kind. We came to Botswana in the wake of an eight-week long strike that had shut down schools all over the country as teachers refused to work. Our pen pals’ school suffered greatly as a result. With exams approaching, they were unable to learn necessary material for the test, and the older students had collectively resorted to teaching younger ones what they would need to know. On top of that, we were informed that many of the teachers in Gumare lack interest in their students as a result of involuntary placement in such a rural location.
Hearing all of this astonished me. To go teacherless for over a month after normally having indifferent teachers, and to still have the motivation to succeed and help others succeed, was admirable, and necessary.
My own pen pal, Pearl, told me all about high school, and about her desire to attend the University of Botswana upon graduation. Coming from a family of four girls and a single mother, Pearl told me it would be difficult, so she needed to pass and continue to pass her exams in order to make it. Unlike the students at Maru-a-Pula, most of whom are accepted to and can afford to attend universities all over the world, the students in Gumare have relatively limited opportunities to further their education and go to college. For Pearl and the rest of our pen pals, an education clearly meant more than homework and tests: it meant the chance at a better life.
Fortunately, I have never had to consider not being able to attend college. Seeing the passion for learning from such a broad range of scholars in Botswana forced me to consider the importance of my own education, to reflect on what an education means to me, and to subsequently feel ashamed of consistently taking it for granted. After viewing the exposure and access that Batswana have to education, though, I feel less guilty. The sheer number of kids enrolled in school is admirable, and though Botswana’s school system may be imperfect, it is on the right track.
Pearl will soon have to decide what to do after graduation, and if she wants to attend the University of Botswana, I believe she can.

Catlin Gabel now makes it possible, through financial aid funds, for every Middle and Upper School student to participate in at least one global education trip abroad during their years at Catlin Gabel.