When two cultures come together, we often expect some major differences—but sometimes, the seemingly small ones are the most surprising.
"Like bagels!" says Blair Magid '23. From Dec. 2-16, she hosted one of the school's 12 visitors from Mirabal International School in Madrid, and over breakfast one morning, she was shocked to learn that something she eats almost daily was a complete mystery to her guest.
"It was really interesting to get that perspective," Blair says. Viewing her life and culture through the lens of another made her see things differently. She began to ask more questions about both her own culture and her guest's, to search for common ground, to learn about and delve into differences.
Blair wasn't expecting to learn so much while hosting a foreign student—like most people, she was under the impression that the traveler experiences the greatest growth. "But programs like this are so good for the students on both sides," she says. "You learn so much more about both cultures, and it's great for language practice. I think it also helps you learn to be more adaptable. I had to adjust a lot of things in my life each day while serving as a host."
These are a few of the reasons that in addition to sending students out to experience the world, Holton also hosts school groups from several countries each school year. Kelly Randall, Assistant Director of Diversity & Global Education, says, "Hosting helps students develop relationships with peers from around the world, while also fostering an interest in and understanding of diverse cultural experiences, and the socio-cultural knowledge necessary to engage respectfully and effectively with people from diverse backgrounds."
These are key skills in today's globalized world, she adds—skills that Holton hopes to cultivate in every student before she graduates.
At their closing luncheon, Mirabal students and their hosts shared many stories of growth, learning, and perspective shifts during the two-week program. They also talked a lot about how much fun they all had. What will they remember most? Seeing their first ice hockey game, learning about a different religious tradition, eating their first cupcake, decorating for the holidays together, discussing similarities and differences in their school cultures, finally discovering how to say something in their partner's language, just being silly and throwing impromptu dance parties, and the list goes on and on.
"The thing I liked most," said one Mirabal student, "was my host family, because they made me feel like I'm one of them."