Global Exchange Ambassadors

Available every other year, the Global Exchange Ambassador (GEA) Program
allows participating Upper School (US) exchange trip students to have a more
complete understanding of the country they visit through additional research
they undertake and present during X block sessions before their trip. The GEA
Program is available for Spanish, French, and Russian students and led by US
Spanish Teacher Carrie Rose, US French Teacher James Sennette, and US Russian
Teacher Joshua Walker, respectively. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are
eligible to apply at the end of the school year and join the program and trip the
following year.
While the exchange portion of the GEA program has not been possible since
2020 due to COVID-19, accepted Spanish and French GEAs for the 2020-21
school year could either postpone their trip until 2022 or participate in a virtual
exchange, where they research and talk with their international counterparts
about general topics and different aspects of the country they would have visited.
All French GEAs have decided to postpone their experience, including the X block
educational sessions, until next year, while some Spanish GEAs have participated
in research and Zoom conversations.
Carson Eckert ’22, who was admitted to the Spanish GEA program during
the 2019-2020 year, has been involved with the virtual exchange since March.
He also has attended monthly informational sessions and conversations with
Spanish students since September, when he began learning about specific aspects
of Spain.
“It has been really fun talking to the Spanish students and seeing the
similarities and differences between us,” he said. “A similarity that surprised me
was how much American content they watch and listen to.”
In the 2019-20 school year, Russian GEAs were able to hold X block sessions,
but they did not get the chance to travel. In lieu of a trip this year, they’ve been
meeting monthly with their sister school in Moscow and are also exploring
possibilities to travel to Russia sometime next year, Mr. Walker said.
During a normal school year, monthly X block meetings are led by Ms. Rose,
Mr. Sennette, and Mr. Walker, who provide direction for students. Then the
students conduct independent research and make a wiki page to present to the
group. Across the three languages, topics discussed include cuisine, artists, daily
life, education, and history of the country.
Mr. Sennette emphasized the value of the X block sessions for GEAs.
“Anyone can go to France and say, ‘Oh, there’s a cool tower,’ or ‘Oh, there’s a
really old church,’ or ‘There’s a lovely castle,’ or whatever it might be, but I think
the sessions really add some depth and some sort of ability to understand and
grasp what you’re seeing,” he said.

Mr. Walker said the meetings are beneficial because they give students the
time to thoroughly experience learning about different aspects of Russia.
“For the kids who are interested in going very, very, very deep into the
experience of the exchange, we finally have the breathing space to do that,” he
said. “The GEA Program carves out the time, attention, and energy for everybody
to talk about the things they’ll experience.”
Jacqueline Haining ’22, who participated in the Russian GEA Program during
the 2019-20 school year, appreciated that breathing space, explaining, “the GEA
program] allowed me to research elements of daily and cultural Russian life that
are either too niche or too complicated to delve into in a regular class period.”
On the exchange trips, GEAs have the chance to lead other BB&N students
who aren’t GEAs, Ms. Rose said. “We’ll rely on the ambassadors to be the experts,
and we might say, ‘Explain to the other kids the significance of what we’re seeing
right now.’”
The program first ran for French and Spanish during the 2018-2019 school
year and for Russian during the 2019-2020 school year. Ms. Rose developed the
program with US World Language Department Head Cécile Roucher-Greenberg
when she realized something was missing on the exchange trips, she said.
“I was taking the kids to museums, and they would walk around, and they
didn’t really care about the art,” Ms. Rose said. “I was disappointed, but then I
understood why: because if they didn’t know about those artists or the history, it
was hard for them to be excited.”
For each year they have run, the Spanish, French and Russian programs have
around 14, 11, and 4 GEAs, respectively, according to the program coordinators.
Olivia Pollock ’21, an ambassador during the 2018-19 school year, said the program
made her feel less lost during her trip to Spain and that the trip itself allowed her
to experience all the things she had learned about in a classroom.
“I remember this moment when we all came to this Francisco Goya painting.
It was sort of this abstract painting, and all of us were staring at it, and the ones
who weren’t ambassadors were like, ‘OK, what is this?’, but the ones who were
knew what it was because we had studied it before,” she said. “We could talk about
its meaning and how it was about the Spanish Great Depression.”
Marie Quintanar ’21 chose to be an ambassador for the French program during
the 2018-2019 school year to have a more in-depth look at places, people, and
French culture, she said, adding that she especially appreciated the ambassadors
with whom she attended X block sessions.
“Having a small group of people that were all interested in the same subject
and focused on making the most of their time was really something that I loved
about the meetings,” she said. “We wanted to share, we wanted to learn, and
everybody was giving 110%.”