Westwood High Students Study Abroad in Colombia South America

8:34 PM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
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Blythewood, SC (WLTX) - It is a lesson educators are trying to get students to really understand: the world has so much to offer them.

To prove it Richland District Two teamed up with Partners of the Americas to encourage their students to get their heads out of just books and actually into the culture.

From Westwood High School just outside Columbia, to Colombia, South America, the exchange program allows the two "Columbias" to seem closer together.

Three students from Westwood high are studying abroad, Kevin Holloway, Amanda Fitzgerald and Wesley Randolf.  On Thursday morning the students got to reconnect with their classmates back in Blythewood via Skype during the school's morning newscast.

"This was just a terrific exchange across the continent," said the school's Spanish teacher Alicia Lewis. "It lets them see the world outside of what they know. It lets them really understand other cultures, connect with other people that otherwise they would not have had the opportunity to know."

During the morning newscast, 11th grade student Jahira Martinez was the reporter got to ask Holloway, Fitzgerald and Randolf about their adventures abroad. Something she was excited to do.

"We just want to know what it's been like and what's going on and what they're looking forward to," Martinez explained.

Clustered into a trio on the other side of the equator, the three students answered questions together. 

"It's beautiful, it's hot!" they explained to Martinez as the whole school looked on. "All the people here are loving and so warm and welcoming."

"Here you'll learn stuff on the streets, you'll learn stuff at the store, you'll learn stuff at your house. And I'm pretty sure you won't be able to get that from the classroom!"

When the students left for Colombia in January, two had never been on a plane before and none of them had left the country. Now, just a few weeks later, their whole world perspective has changed.

"I want to travel everywhere!" they said. "Meet new people, learn new languages. Let's go, let's do this, I'm ready!"

Alicia Lewis says that enthusiasm is exactly the point. 

"The goal of the whole program is to make strong connections within our communities, within our students and with communities across the world."

The experience has also inspired students back home to broaden their horizons.

"Maybe one day I can go out and I can learn at these different places," said Martinez, "and I can come back and tell everybody what I've experienced. It definitely makes me realize, 'wow, there's so much this world has to offer'."
Students from Blythewood and Spring Valley High Schools are also in Colombia. There are several Colombian exchange students in the Midlands too.  

The students were selected based on academic excellence, an interview process and recommendations. They will return to the United States in March.


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