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Out of Classrooms, Into Communities: The International Symposium Is Revamped

Above: While in Peru, students traveled to Patacancha to meet with members of the Awamaki Weaving Cooperation. They drank Yerba Mate, had the opportunity to try on some of the native clothing, and learned how to make string bracelets out of the alpaca wool the weavers dye and spin themselves.

For five years, Packer’s Tenth Graders traveled to the Andalusian region of southern Spain in the International Symposium program. The week-long trip provided an opportunity for students to explore the confluence of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim influences through sightseeing and hands-on workshops. 

This year, Andrew Parson, International Symposium Coordinator, and Tené Howard, Director of Global Programs and Community Engagement, transformed the Sophomore Symposium experience, creating the opportunity for students to travel in smaller groups to one of four different locations, two in Peru and two in Greece. The re-envisioned program, which launched in January, aims to draw Packer students outside of their comfort zones and allow them to engage directly with children and adults living in those countries. 

Students in the Greece Symposium group visited the Acropolis and other landmarks in Athens before dividing into smaller groups and heading to Lesvos and Crete.
In both Peru and Greece, students began by visiting historic landmarks such as Machu Picchu and the Acropolis. Then they split into two smaller groups to work with local NGOs. In Puerto Maldonado, Peru, students focused on building personal relationships through an exchange with local students, while their peers in the rural Sacred Valley worked with community organizations exploring issues related to healthcare, cooperative economics, and education. On the Greek island of Crete, students studied climate change and sustainability, while their counterparts in Lesvos gained insight on the European migrant crisis and met with refugees of the civil war in Syria.

Following their trip, the sophomores shared reflections about their experiences. Below are a few excerpts. 

“Learning through both statistics and stories enabled us to get an understanding of how much [the migrant] issue has both rattled and unified the closely knit community on the island of Lesvos.” — Mele Buice ’21

“Going to Puerto Maldonado was nothing like going on vacation. It was about being uncomfortable, living in the moment, and appreciating the life that we all get to live.” — India Brecht ’21

“The bonds and memories the Crete trip classmates made while preparing stuffed grape leaves at a classic Minoan cooking class, learning the traditional Greek kalamatianos circle dance, and tasting ‘real’ honey at a small farm were, without question, unforgettable.” — Lily Crowell ’21

“[The trip to Sacred Valley] gave us a chance to reflect on the always-angry culture in New York City and realize that we are privileged in so many ways that we don’t even acknowledge all of them. I want to be a less easily angered person and be more happy with all that I have.” — Charlotte Agliata ’21

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