New exchange trip to Macon, GA

Known for its strong emphasis on diversity and global education, Westminster has offered students various opportunities to travel around the world and learn about other countries for the past two decades. Exchange programs, such as the Strasbourg exchange and the Mt. Kenya exchange, provide students with an open door, inviting them to step through and explore entirely different worlds.

Although these programs do create a network of strong international relationships between the Westminster community and the greater world community, administrators and faculty have recently discovered a fatal flaw in the objectives behind these programs. Deeming the focus of the school’s programs too thin, the two oldest programs, the Chinese Exchange and the Argentine Exchange, have decided to take an exchange trip down to Macon, Georgia, in the summer of 2016 instead to concentrate solely on our own cultural and historical backgrounds.

This summer, the Chinese and Argentine exchange programs are joining together to bring Chinese and Spanish language students to the farms of southern Georgia. As these students have worked hard all year developing their speaking and writing capabilities, language teachers increasingly stress the importance of taking a break from practicing these linguistic skills.

Alternatively, students will immerse themselves into the Southern lifestyle and learn the traditional methods of picking peaches and spinning cotton as well as the daily farmer’s routine, including milking the cow before breakfast.

“The amount of capsula cultura and conversación practices during the school year is just ridiculous,” said Spanish teacher Sofia Tosello. “This exchange program is all about drifting away from foreign culture for awhile and engaging in domestic culture, which is more important, and that is the ‘now’ of what is right in front of us.”

Students will stay with farmer host families for four weeks to learn the ways of the land and develop a strong Georgian accent to better master Southern slang and better blend in into the culture.

“I’m excited to see how crop rotation works and taste true southern style buttered biscuit and grits,” said junior Spanish student Nidhi Rao. “Hopefully, I can also get my hands on that secret ingredient to southern sweet tea.

One of the main objectives of this newly revised program is to emphasize the term “exchange” because it is an exchange program, not a service project.

“From a Westminster student’s perspective, the most common image of farming is probably a unfamiliar place known for lots of physical work and manual labor, probably as some sort of foreign concept or as a sort of community service,” said Chinese teacher Lily Liu. “Although we are helping local farmers in the fields and gathering peanuts and such, this is supposed to be a fun learning experience and a chance to go there for a different reason based on what we all in common, rather than focusing on differences.”

Expanding on the mini courses offered throughout JanTerm, the Macon Exchange gives students more chances to learn crucial life skills.

“Forget about ‘Life, laundry, and other basics with Ms. Cooke in the Exploratorium,’” said sophomore Claire Bergman. “Once I learn how to get the cotton gin working, I’ll never have to do laundry again because I can just make more clean clothes! Thanks, Westminster!”