Colombian students experience Vermont

Colombian students make most of Vermont experiences

July 22, 2019
Ariel Wish '20
students in bright colored dresses dancing in a line

Directly above, students dance during last week’s coffee hour in the St. Edmund’s Hall lobby; below, Gimnasio Vermont longtime leader Clara Galvis at right, with colleagues Nancy and Santiago at the coffee hour; and another view of some more dancers. (photos by Ariel Wish and Christine Bauer-Ramazani)

“We have loved every minute of it,” says high school sophomore Isabella Martin when asked to reflect on her last three weeks spent living at Saint Michael’s College, taking high-caliber English language courses, and exploring beautiful Vermont and New England. “The people we’ve interacted with here are very kind. We’ve been very well received,” agrees classmate Maria Soto.

Martin and Soto are two of this year’s 30 students from Gimnasio Vermont, a private school in Bogota, Colombia, that has been sending groups of students on month-long study abroad trips to St. Mike’s for the past 27 summers with the vision of not only enhancing their English language skills, but teaching them about American culture through hands on experience and integration.

While on campus, the students take two classes each day: their “core class,” which consists of an in-depth study and discussion of a young adult American novel of each student’s choosing (such as The Hunger Games or Into the Wild), and another specialized class. Martin reports that her favorite course is called “Discover Vermont,” and focuses on getting students out to explore local sites while also allowing them to improve their writing skills. Also a specialized offering is “Oral Skills,” a course working to improve students’ speaking and listening through film analysis.

When students aren’t in classes, they’re busy adventuring near and far, reports Maria Loughran, a rising St. Mike’s senior who has been hired to introduce the group of 16-18 year olds to life in Vermont and on campus. In addition to giving them campus tours when they first arrived, running an orientation session, and helping them navigate the bus system downtown, Loughran and other St. Mike’s assistants take the students on excursions such as the Spirit of Ethan Allen boat tours, and are even planning a trip to Boston for the students’ last weekend on campus.

Clara and friends“Clara Elsa Galvis, Vice-Principal Emerita of Gimnasio Vermont and MATESOL alumna, and her two chaperones are very proud of their students’ work as part of the three-week summer program in English Language Programs at Saint Michael’s College,” says Christine Bauer-Ramazani who has also worked closely with the students as the director of Saint Michael’s English Language Programs. “Building on the bilingual education they receive from Pre-K to 12 at GV, the students have been immersed in furthering their English in a content-based mode of instruction, studying themes of their choice, such as ‘Exploring Social Justice,’ ‘The Lost Boys of Sudan,’ ‘Social Media, ‘The Pursuit of Happiness,’ and more. They engage their fellow classmates from International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo and other IEP students from Vietnam, India, Japan, and Colombia in lively discussions and poster presentations. Group work is paramount, contributing to the exchange of ideas and expression of critical thinking that is valued at both GV and Saint Mike’s.” Said Clara Galvis at the end of this year’s group’s time in Vermont, “Seeing this new group of Gimnasio Vermont students enjoy the Intensive English Program at Saint Michael´s College, has been truly rewarding specially because they have embraced the beliefs and values we had in mind when it was created.”

two students dancing

The Colombian students decided to give the Saint Michael’s community a taste of their own culture on Wednesday, July 17 when they hosted a coffee hour event in the St. Ed’s lobby. A great time was had by all as students, faculty, and staff gathered around to taste traditional Colombian cuisine – including coffee candy and homemade empanadas — and watch the talented group of students sing, dance, and take pride in their culture.

Follow us on social.