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Civic Impact

International travel dreams come true for kids via World Affairs Council

The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh will once again be sending a dozen local high-school juniors to as many countries on immersive trips that are "hugely transformative – it's an experience that transforms their experience of the world," says Annie M. Prucey, the Council's vice president and director of education programs.
The Global Travel Scholarship Program, in its 10th year, chose student from among 74 teacher-nominated applicants students who best demonstrated a passion for travelling and learning about the world, as well as maturity, leadership ability, school achievement and a need for the program.
"We want to make this opportunity available to students who wouldn't have the opportunity to go abroad," says Prucey.
Students from Pittsburgh Perry, Carrick and Brashear high schools, Pittsburgh Sci Tech Academy, and Penn Hills, South Side Area, McKeesport, Cornell and Ringgold high schools, as well as Winchester Thurston and Sewickley Academy, were chosen for three- to five-week trips this summer to Spain, Japan, Argentina, Botswana, Korea, China, South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Peru, Costa Rica and Italy. The program is devised by The Experiment in International Living, a program of World Learning.
The World Affairs Council provides pre-departure orientation and leadership training as well as the scholarship, which pays for everything but incidental student costs, such as souvenirs.
Prucey labels the trips "a total immersion," in which students stay with a family in their country, often performing community service, taking language training and completing projects in the arts or the environment. The idea, she says, is for the travelers to become part of the community, learning how to interact with the rest of the world – how to cross ethnic, linguistic and other boundaries outside, and later inside, the United States. "They really become close and it creates a lifelong connection to that part of the world."
Traveling with two adult group leaders trained to facilitate the experience and other American high school kids, the Pittsburgh students also bond with peers from all over the country.
Prucey has seen program participants become more competitive for college entry and gain more appreciation for what they have in this country, because of the lack of resources they often encounter in other places.
"But they are surprised by how much we have in common with people from other countries," she says. "I have seen tremendous growth, a lot more independence and I have seen them set their sights higher."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Annie M. Prucey, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh
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