Even before she got out of the airport, Adele Horton had an experience that only international travel can provide.
Horton, who will be a junior at Oregon High School, was traveling to London for a study-abroad trip through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) when she got detained in customs at the airport for 1½ hours upon arriving. It was about 3 a.m. in the United States, but her parents were able to confirm her purpose in London to authorities and Horton said CIEE was very helpful with the process.
“When I was traveling back, (I figured) nothing will be as bad as that,” she said.
Being away from family for three weeks and traveling by herself was a challenging part of the trip for Horton, who enjoyed the experience.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.
CIEE is an international educational organization based in Portland, Maine. It was founded in 1947 to coordinate the efforts of a number of organizations and institutions that emerged after WWII in the U.S. and abroad to promote peaceful coexistence and respect between nations through student- and teacher-exchange programs.
Its mission has changed somewhat over the years and in the 1960s, the organization became a focal point for strategic and policy discussions on the future direction of intercultural education. In recognition of this strategic shift, the Council on Student Travel changed its name in 1967 to the Council on International Educational Exchange.
Horton, who was a sophomore at West High School last year, was one of 24 students from West who are traveling abroad this summer. There are a total of 36 from the Madison School District and 2,258 nationwide.
The West students traveled to a number of countries, including some in Europe as well as Botswana, India, Japan, Russia and Senegal. Some were on programs to learn the language and culture, while others were learning about subjects such as wildlife conservation, marine science, world government, how to empower girls through health education and mentoring youths. Some programs run for three weeks and others for four, and in some cases students can earn credit.
Horton’s program was called “Theater Arts Behind the Scenes.”
Reagan Kunesh, who will be a senior at West, traveled to Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, for the “Spanish Language and Mexican Culture” program.
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Kunesh, who wants to major in psychology and minor in Spanish in college, wanted to improve her proficiency in Spanish and learn more about the Mexican culture. The process to apply for the program and a scholarship is lengthy, but she wound up getting 50%, or about $2,400, of the cost paid that way. She also got some help from a GoFundMe crowdfunding effort and used money earned from her job.
She said that in addition to classes taught in Spanish, her group went to places like museums, Mayan ruins and the beach.
A highlight was learning to be independent and learning by living with a Mexican family that included two brothers, ages 18 and 24, a mom, and a dad who worked in the United States so she didn’t meet him.
“I was without my family and was with a whole new family in a new city,” she said. “I won’t forget about the family that I had in Mexico.”
The most difficult part of the program was adjusting to speaking Spanish full time and not understanding some things.
She was surprised that while there is a bus system, she didn’t find any dedicated bus stops.
“You have to wave them down to have them stop,” she said.
Horton said she got a 90% scholarship for the London program, which cost about $5,000, and it appealed to her because she is active in drama and dance.
She stayed in a hostel in London and became close to her three roommates from California and Texas.
Her favorite part of the experience was being able to go to a lot of shows, including some she wouldn’t be able to see in the United States. She also visited a number of historical landmarks in London and went on trips including an overnight one to William Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.
“I’ve never been to another country besides Canada and I really love theater and London is a really big theater scene,” Horton said.