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50th Edition, Global Education

Russia exchange

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Daniel Fuchs,
Volume 50
February 15, 2011

The “South-238” exchange, a student exchange between South and School 238 in St. Petersburg, has been a part of South for nearly five years, and has connected students from across the globe.
The program, which began in 2006, is an alternating-year exchange program; in 2006, South students hosted, and the following year were hosted by students in School 238. Students remain with their host families for roughly 2-3 weeks.
The program was created by Russian teacher Lucinda Leveille, who had connected with the school before arriving at South. “The program is a cultural exploration and home stay,” Leveille said.
The groups of students and faculty from both Newton and Russia, generally numbering around six students and two teachers, arrive in their host country and are immediately taken in by a host family.
This transition can be daunting to some students, but many are able to adjust to their new situations. “There are no problems with acclimation, though it can be scary when they go to their host family,” Leveille said. “It can be awkward at the beginning, but that passes.”
Host families, according to Leveille, are always accommodating, especially when it comes to food. “Families often have snacks and meals available for students,” Leveille said. “They are very careful of allergies.”
In fact, the students often grow close with their host families. “They reach a common language,” Leveille said. “People learn to like each other, and often become close friends.”
The exchange students attend the opposite high school, either choosing their own classes or following their host. In many situations, South students and students from School 238 will help out during foreign language courses. “The Russian students will help out during Russian class, and our students will help out during English class,” Leveille said.
During the afternoon, students will travel throughout their host cities, experiencing the culture firsthand. “We take the Russian students to the museums, like the [Museum of Fine Arts] or Newton History Museum, take them shopping or visit the seashore,” Leveille said.
And while traveling across Massachusetts often requires a van, in St. Petersberg the South students do not have the same issues. “St. Petersburg is a very walkable city,” Leveille said. “It is easy to get around.”
In the evenings, students may attend cultural events or just spend time with their families.  Group dinners at one of the host students’ houses happen often to allow students time to get to know each other in groups.
During the program, notable experiences have included student talent shows in St. Petersburg, where South students performed songs they had learned in Russian class
Speaking about the future of the program, Leveille hopes it can expand and allow more students and faculty to attend. “I would love to involve teachers of other disciplines,” Leveille said. “The language barrier can be an issue, however.”
Leveille takes pride in students on both sides that choose to participate in the program. “I have great admiration for students brave enough to leave home and go where they don’t know anyone,” Leveille said. “It is a brave thing to do.”

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