The Westminster Bi-Line

The student news site of The Westminster Schools

Breaking News

The Westminster Bi-Line

The Westminster Bi-Line

The controversy of international Janterms, a detailed exposé: student lost in England finally comes forward


It’s no doubt that Janterm —  an interactive three-week period during January where students choose a class on a topic of their choice —  is a highlight of the Westminster student experience. From flying airplanes to building houses in foreign countries, some people even refer to Janterm as not only their favorite part of the school year, but the best educational opportunity that Westminster offers. So, why is it that there has been recent controversy surrounding the school’s most beloved program? 

Each year during the Janterm elective fair, teachers pitch to students reasons to join their specific Janterm. Yet, almost every year, students rush to apply to the traveling Janterms —  an opportunity to leave the country with a rather random group of classmates. Since their inception, traveling Janterms have been nothing but successful, with lively stories told from students who participated in the Mount Kenya Academy exchange program, and beautiful documentaries made by those who recently traveled to Poland. 

However, according to recent news, not all travel Janterm experiences have been so “sunshine and rainbows,” as a shocking discovery covers a former student coming forward after being allegedly “abandoned” in England during a Janterm trip five years ago.

 The trip was supposed to cover visiting “prehistoric monuments” in Great Britain, from the famous Stonehenge and Avesbury in Wiltshire to the Castlerigg Stone Circle in North West England. It was the third year since the Janterm had begun, and each year students raved about how fun the week-long trip was, with activities like walking through the streets of London during free time and taking disposable photos at each of the prehistoric sites. For two years, the international trip had run seamlessly without a hitch, until junior Izzy Whitlock was abandoned in England all by herself. According to Whitlock, it was something she never could’ve seen coming.

“It all happened so fast,” said Whitlock. “One afternoon we were getting rained on during our walk back to the hotel, both exhilarated and exhausted from the day, and the next, I was in the hotel completely alone, begging the concierge for the number of the U.S Embassy. His accent was so thick I could barely understand him, and for the first thirty minutes I thought he was telling me ‘Don’t wear out luck.’ Turns out he was saying ‘Don’t worry love.’ I think it is completely unacceptable that Westminster did not offer at least a brief course in the British English language before shipping us across the pond for an entire week. If not for my exceptional awareness skills, I barely would’ve survived. Completely unacceptable.” 

Whitlock claims she was stuck in the UK for an entire month before she made it back to Atlanta. By then, she had quickly withdrawn from Westminster and transferred to a small private school in rural Georgia where she underwent extensive therapy for the alleged “culture shock” and “traumatizing British dialect” she experienced during her stay in the United Kingdom. She claims she has made a full recovery, although, rumor has it, you can still hear a slight British twang within her words. Later, when we asked Whitlock why she had waited so long to tell her story, she mentioned that a part of her tried to forget, in her words, the trauma that was JanTerm 2019.

“As a current college student who will be graduating in just a couple of months, I now can say confidently that I have a certain level of maturity and experience that I lacked at age seventeen,” said Whitlock. “How could I come forward about being left, abandoned, and deserted as a teenage girl, camping out in U.S embassies and consulates when I had an entire school administration against me? What I feared was that the school would find a way to cover it up. The reality of what had happened to me. My struggle, unwanted immersion, and forced assimilation with the British English Language. It wasn’t a mistake, nor carelessness on my part, that I was lost and alone, but carelessness on the part of the school. They insisted on holding our passports. They promised our parents our safety. Yet suddenly, sixteen students were back in their homes safe, and I was sobbing in a hotel surrounded by no one who could speak real English. The people there, they kept mumbling incoherently, asking if I wanted biscuits. Tea. They told me my situation was a ‘Bloody nightmare,’ and they were ‘terribly sorry.’  These facts alone would open up questions and a whole investigation into the validity of travel Janterms. At seventeen years old, that was not a battle I wanted to fight. I’m thinking that after five years, I’m finally ready to reopen the conversation.” 

When Whitlock first transferred to RGHS (Rural Georgian High School) following her impromptu month “imprisoned” in England, as she recounts, she was in a state of emotional removal about the situation, ignoring any attempts her friends and classmates made to reach out with their sympathies. 

While many said she was focusing on her intensive therapy in gaining back her southern vernacular, others said the situation traumatized her to the point that she was unable to look at, or mention, a “cup of tea,” and she would even keep shivering and muttering “the loo” when wanting to go to the bathroom. After interviewing Carry Stanman, ostensibly one of Whitlock’s closest friends during her period at Westminster, Stanman mentioned how stealthily Westminster hid losing a kid in a foreign country.   

“Izzy was in two of my classes, and we shared advisement together. When we heard that we both got into the England Janterm together, we were elated; we’d never left the country together before, and she was truly excited to visit the prehistoric sites. She was a bit of a history freak in that way,” said Stanman. 

“When we arrived back in Atlanta, and realized we left Izzy back in our hotel, all the students went into panic mode. The faculty, for a moment, seemed to panic as well. Then they launched into coming up with alibis, and settled on ‘Izzy decided to stay with some relatives in London for a while.’ Later, when Izzy transferred, they claimed she would be doing a semester with her cousins in London, and that was that. It felt like the whole school somewhat forgot about her. Well, until now.” 

Following Carry Stanman’s interview, more and more of Izzy Whitman’s former classmates have begun to speak up. Their willingness to tell Whitman’s story as college juniors and seniors speaks not only to the severity of the situation, but also to the real controversy this situation is causing. Now, investigators around Atlanta are flocking to The Westminster Schools, beginning to open a rather intriguing case that might alter the course of traveling Janterms – or rather, Janterms for good. 

While detectives have just begun to scratch the surface, one thing’s for sure: Whitman’s bravery to speak up after five years leaves open-ended accusations that question both the validity of Whitman’s story and the claims of Westminster faculty involved. Only time will tell if international Janterms will continue, or more importantly, if Whitman (and her southern accent) can ever truly recover from her traumatic experience in the UK.   

More to Discover