Vicky Haghighi '19 has a great answer to the old, "What did you do this summer?" question. That's because shortly after final exams wrapped up on campus June 1, Haghighi jetted 3,700 miles to Lima, Peru for a month to study as part of Brooks' annual exchange program.
"I got to live as if I was a Peruvian," said the Bronx, New York native, who stayed with two different host families and attended classes at Brooks' partner school, Colegio Trener, alongside fellow Brooks student Gabriel Barreto-D'Silva '20. "I went to school everyday and enjoyed the pastimes, including watching the World Cup with my classmates. I loved getting to see a part of the world that I didn't really know about."
And that is exactly the point of Brooks' exchange initiative. Founded in 1986, the program sends students to participate in communities in Botswana, Hungary, Morocco, Peru, Scotland and Spain each year, while also welcoming students from those schools to our campus.
But unlike the March break exchanges in Europe and Africa, students going to Peru depart during the summer (after Peruvian exchange students join Brooks' community in late January during their summer break).
Haghighi (shown above in center front) said she particularly appreciated being able to immerse herself in the culture during her five weeks there, rather than just checking off sightseeing destinations. "I enjoyed the experience of being in a different country and seeing Peru through a Peruvian perspective, instead of a tourist perspective," she explained.
The highlight of her trip, in fact, was "being able to go through life as if I was always there," she said. "I really liked going to school and experiencing a whole different environment than I am used to and meeting all the friendly faces that I would be spending most of my time with. I met so many new people and I got to know them very well."
It helped that she was already acquainted with three students at Colegio Trener, a bilingual day school for pre-kindergarten through 11th grade. Rodrigo Cisneros, Isabella Salazar and Ana Sofia Higashi had studied at Brooks for five weeks during their exchange this past winter. Five days a week, Haghighi went to school with the trio and embraced her turn being the "new" kid.
In January, Brooks welcomed Colegio Trener students Rodrigo Cisneros, Isabella Salazar and Ana Sofia Higashi (shown here with Scotland exchange students Iona Landale and Thomas Reynolds from Glenalmond College) on campus for a month.
"I participated in classes that were spoken in Spanish," the rising sixth-former shared. "It was challenging for me but I felt like I learned a lot."
Haghighi also had the opportunity to participate in a class trip to historical sites in Peru. "I traveled to Cusco, which is a city in the Peruvian Andes that used to be the capital of the Inca Empire," she said. The adventurer also visited the Temple of the Sun, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu and declared it, "an amazing experience that I will never forget!"
Yet the weeks she spent in South America did more than add to her memories. "This experience helped me open up to different ways of life and made me realize that living in the moment is very important," reflected Haghighi. "Peru was my first time outside of the United States, and it helped me step out of my comfort zone and try new things."
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