Our group at Masada.

by Alex

Today we had the privilege of visiting the local school in Karmi’el and learning about the student’s classes and their lifestyles. We were first taken to a lesson to have a discussion with the students. When I heard this I feared it would not be an exciting learning experience, and rather a chance for the Israeli students to “Talk to the Americans”, but the discussion ultimately gave us greater insight into the lives and culture of people our age in Israel. The first question we asked them was, “What is it like having to serve in the military when you graduate high school?” The response was surprising. They told us about the love they had for their country and how serving was not only an opportunity for them to help their country, but help themselves by better educating themselves in different fields of interest. I was completely unaware that the military gave the enlisted members a chance to explore different careers and go to college through the military. The students asked us the next question, which was, “What is the point of coming to Israel if you are not Jewish?” This is a question we were asked quite often. The answer was that, even though this country is predominately Jewish, religion does not separate people, thus the impact the children’s village had on me, and the rest of the kids on this trip was not affected by the religious differences of the people around us. What makes the connections we have with the village and the people we meet so special are our mutual desire to help and to learn. Ultimately after visiting the local school in Karmi’el I gained a better understanding my mission on this trip, and the culture of the people around me.


Museum of Natural History


From Jennifer Salrin, Chaperone

There was no sunshine to be had today, but we didn’t let that stop us from another exciting day! We began our adventures by traveling over to Georgetown where the sister of Laura’s exchange partner gave us a tour of her university’s campus. Next we headed over to Capitol Hill where we enjoyed our tour of the Capitol. (The first picture I’ve sent is of the girls standing in the Visitor Center in front of a replica of the Statue of Freedom that adorns the top of the Capitol dome.) Our next stop was the Library of Congress just across the street, where we particularly admired the Main Reading Room. (The second picture I’ve sent is from the Great Hall there, just outside the Reading Room.) Next we continued to dodge the rain and headed over to the Museum of Natural History where the girls befriended Henry the elephant (again, the final picture) and where they also had a chance to see the Hope Diamond. Finally, we headed over to Penn Quarter, where we saw the U.S. Navy Memorial and then enjoyed our dinner at a fantastic seafood restaurant before strolling through a little bit of Chinatown. All in all, it was another great day. And tomorrow the sun promises to return!


Coffee, juice and donuts with visiting Perse students and the GS Cohorts.


"Pack for every possible occasion!"

- Passionate advice from Nicole George, visiting exchange student from the Perse School in Cambridge, England, when asked what advice she would give anyone contemplating embarking on an exchange.  The students met Wednesday morning with members of the Global Studies Certificate cohorts to exchange thoughts on initial impressions of America and Sewickley Academy.
Photo Set

Sewickley Academy Global Studies Certificate students volunteer at GLOBA LINKS Pittsburgh on March 8.


"WHY, why did nobody think of what Global Links does before, on a large scale?"


A group of Global Studies students headed to Global Links on March 8th, 2014, as a global service learning endeavor. Global Links acquires gently used hospital equipment that would otherwise end on landfills and ships it to underprivileged hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, visit the Global Links website @ www.globallinks.org

“You shall not use these mattresses anymore. These mattresses don’t contain the anti-bed bug technology that our new product exclusively hails. That means that everyone else on every other bed people have been using for years is condemned to a very unpleasant if not life-threatening case of bed bugs. They must all be thrown away.”

A hospital equipment production company is likely to make deals with insurance companies that make a rule out of the use of their new products. This is a clever method of persuasion is a side effect of progress. This is how a business must keep selling, installing doubts, creating a new need, which for us and technology is a great thing, but that does not mean we cannot ignore the negative consequences of our advancements.

We get new beds, new technology that is undoubtedly better. The old beds suffer a sadder fate. They will end up in a landfill. On another side of our world there are some of the most underprivileged hospitals. A man suffers a sadder fate because he is denied a life-saving surgery due to lack of needle thread and IV fluids. He must wait out his inevitable death at home.

WHY, why did nobody think of what Global Links does before, on a large scale? Why is there no systematic recollection of gently used hospital materials to hospitals for poor areas of this country and our neighboring countries that have to turn people down every day because of their lacking? They do not have money. Their communities do not have the means to produce what hospitals need, in the most basic of terms. And we do not need any more landfills!

For now it is up to non-profits like Global Links to pick up the slack and take initiative with these issues. Global Links collects wheelchairs, crutches, dentistry chairs, gurneys, medical equipment, shampoo, disinfectant, and even mattresses. They are all classified, stored in a warehouse, and shipped off to hospitals in need, allowing people to be cured and live on. This requires a very large taskforce of workers and smart logistics, especially to get perishable items in time for use in Latin America. This force consists of committed volunteers.

The day we walked into the Global Links building we glimpsed a small view of the work these people do to keep the organization alive.  On our tour of the warehouse we walked through a small room dubbed the Wheelchair Room, a seemingly chaotic trove of unrecognizable parts of a wheelchair. These parts require more than willingness and resolve to be assembled;  they require engineering skill.  Perfectly so, the room was taken over by engineers, and especially engineering majors in the nearby colleges, who come often and are of huge value to the organization.

We performed a less daunting task but valuable all of its own. We painstakingly sorted perishable items such as shampoos, soaps, and disinfectants into packages and boxes by expiration date to be shipped as safely as possible. We worked with students of other schools to work out a system by try and fail method, which eventually flowed smoothly as an imperfect unit. It was a lot of fun and overall I noticed signs that people were also thinking of those which the items were going to. We all noticed that the donations were just a start for the tackling of the problem, especially due to the difficulty of donating good quality perishable items. The products we were handling were often of the poorest quality available in this country.  Where does everything else go?  If it weren’t just up to small non-profits, many more countries would benefit from a higher quality of help, and ethical and environmental consciousness would be a value of norm in a larger part of our society. At least it would be easier to deal with the logistical difficulties of the process, but nevertheless we should not underestimate organizations like Global Links, and the proof lies in the significance of their actions.

By this time, the boxes we shipped from the humble warehouse in Pennsylvania have reached a humble hospital in Latin America, and someone is enjoying the luxury of a scented shower, shampoo and conditioner after days of sickness. Somebody’s hands, probably another volunteer’s hands opened the boxes, and noticed messages written in basic Spanish all throughout its sides. Tenga un buen dia! Saludos de Sewickley! Have a nice day! Greetings from Sewickley! Messages we wrote spontaneously, in the spirit and midst of our small contribution.  Volunteering to help people in this way is not a chore or a requirement.  It is an eye opener that forces one to reflect on our failures and the realities of our society, and the work personally put into it assures we will at least try not to make the same mistakes whenever confronted in the future.

by Maria Arbelaez-Solano



SA French students ready to depart for Nice, France and a ten-day exchange with families from the Institut Stanislas. On y va! 


submitted by Jerilyn Scott, chaperone

Read more about this incredible experience at http://blog.classroomswithoutborders.org/.

Wow, we’ve covered a lot of ground in the last thirty-six hours!  We left the Village early Sunday morning with lots of mixed emotions. Everyone was excited to see the amazing sites to come, but also genuinely sad to leave. Over about three and a half hours, we left the lush, green, Mediterranean feel of the north and drove south into the desert. Along the way we could clearly see that we driving along the valley of a geological fault line with the mountains of Israel to our right and the higher mountains of Jordan to our left. The landscape became starker and browner, and the temperature rose steadily. Eventually the Dead Sea appeared on our left - the lowest place on Earth, well below sea level and still sinking.  Our guide, Avi, shared with us some of the environmental concerns about the rapid shrinking of the sea, due to both natural and man-made causes. He also pointed out the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and the sites of several familiar Bible stories. It’s amazing to see the REAL places in which these things took place, and to put them in the context of ordinary, modern places.

Our first stop of the day was a spa near Ein Gedi where we were able to swim in the Dead Sea. After a long walk from the spa to the water’s edge, across salt and mud flats and sinkholes caused by the receding water level, we reached the shore. Everyone delighted in the novel experience of floating in water that is ten times saltier than any other body of water on Earth. The sea bed itself is hardened salt rather than the sand, silt, or pebbles we would expect. There were giant clumps of salt build-up on the pilings of the pier. The water tasted incredibly potent and bitter (some of us had to ignore our better judgment and taste it on purpose; for others it was an unfortunate accident). The best part, of course, is the incredible buoyancy. It feels like sitting on a solid surface. The kids also threw themselves into the “therapeutic” mud with gusto!  They coated themselves, stepped into the deepest quicksand they could find, slid backwards down slimy, muddy slopes, and generally reveled in the mess. It made for some really fun pictures!  

After shoveling down a quick lunch, we went further down the road to Masada, an ancient desert fortress built by King Herod atop a high rocky plateau. We took a cable car to the top of the mountain and toured the ruins, with Avi teaching us the history of each section in great detail. It was an amazingly elaborate structure, with the palace itself cascading down the steep mountain face in three tiers. The entire fortress was supplied with water by an ingenious system of aquifers that captured the rainwater from two flash floods a year - the only rainfall they experienced - in a series of giant cisterns carved into the mountain. We were able to peer into the cisterns as we hiked down from Masada along the ramp that the Romans built to breach the walls of the fortress. That breach led to a mass suicide by the Jews inside who refused to be taken alive. Although the wisdom of that tactic is questioned now, the stubborn spirit became a national rallying cry in Israel for a time - “Masada will not fall again.”

After hiking down off the mountain, we drove the nearby Beduin encampment where we spent the night. We were pleasantly surprised by how NOT rustic the accommodations were. Although charming and run by actual Beduins, it is clearly a sophisticated business venture. Our “tents” were more like exotically decorated three-walled cabins with bunk beds, electricity, and hammocks on the porch.  It made for a fabulous slumber party atmosphere in the group (although the boys now know that it’s harder to balance in a hammock while asleep than it looks!)   The highlight of the Beduin encampment was definitely the camel riding. We rode two to a camel through the desert, watching Beduin shepherds drive their flocks in for the evening. It’s not easy to take a selfie while balancing on a moving camel, but believe me, your kids have it mastered! There was a lot of laughter and squealing as the kids bonded - or not - with their camels. Following a delicious traditional dinner, we heard a Beduin man speak about the Beduin lifestyle and how it is changing, and we had a chance to ask questions. He told us about his three wives and twenty-two children, who he supports in part with his work with tourists at the encampment. By the time we retired to our tents for the evening, we had put in a very full and diverse day.

This morning we climbed back into the minibus for the drive to Jerusalem. We arrived around noon. Our first quick stop was a visit to a friend of Tsipy’s who is a supporter of a Classrooms Without Borders. It was an interesting experience for our kids to see another Israeli home. They had visited Tomer’s middle class home in Karmi’el, and now they saw a pricey, upscale home in Jerusalem. Both, while lovely, are far smaller and less ornate than what we are used to in the US. It’s good for them to see different ways of living. We then had a quick lunch in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (within the ancient wall) before getting serious about our touring.

Our main event of the day was touring the excavations at the City of David just outside the walls of the Old City. We sloshed through the aqueducts that were dug through solid bedrock under the city thousands of years ago. The tunnels were narrow enough that we often bumped both elbows on the walls to our sides, low enough that we walked through some sections bent over at the waist to avoid hitting our heads on the ceiling, and filled with cold, swiftly moving water that varied from mid-calf to mid-thigh in depth. And, of course, it was pitch black except for the beams of our flashlights. Not for the faint of heart! Avi had us turn off the flashlights and walk the last twenty-five yards in absolute blackness, feeling our way along the walls. It was both awful and amazing.

Upon emerging from the darkness, we went next to the Western Wall where some of us left prayer notes tucked into the cracks of the wall. There was a great diversity of people of all nationalities and religious groups converging at the Wall to pray with a variety of traditions. By late afternoon we checked into our hotel and had a brief respite before dinner at a local restaurant. We were joined by Avi’s two daughters, ages 6 and 9, who are trilingual. They know their Argentinian mother’s native Spanish, their American father’s English, and the Hebrew of their home country, all quite fluently. They were very entertained by our students’ attempts at Spanish conversation!  After dinner we walked through Jerusalem to the Tower of David for a light show of the history of the city. We sat in an outdoor courtyard while a fantastic musical and visual show was projected across three entire walls of the surrounding building. It’s hard to explain, but the effect was fascinating. We capped the night with a little bit of shopping on an upscale avenue before taking cabs back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we will spend the morning exploring more of Jerusalem, and then head to Tel Aviv for our final stop.  Our time is running out!

Take care,


I was a very privileged child living in Colombia. I owned about 70 Barbie dolls, giant plushy teddies, and beautiful, painted horses. I had a nanny named Mirella who bathed me, brushed my teeth, dressed me, cooked for me, made my bed, cleaned up after me, took me to the bus stop, and played with me. I had family living so close to me, and the occasional party or barbeque where all my family ate delicious Colombian food and laughed their delicious hearty laughter. I went to the Colombian equivalent of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, Ballarte, which was an amazing ballet school, and a very good catholic private school named Los Treboles (The Clovers) In total, I was comfortable and happy in my little bubble. In the movie, Horton Hears a Who, The Who’s living in the pollen are perfectly comfortable also, but there is a world outside that pollen, and for us, that was the United States.

Coming here was a strange experience for me. I never felt happy to be in the United States specifically. I could have cared less if it was the United States or any other country, as long as I got to see my dad, who had come here for a year before us. I used to think of America as a place with the Statue of Liberty, a hotdog stand, an amusement park, Michael Jackson (on top of the Statue of Liberty like in his music video I had seen in Colombia) and snow. For the first year that we lived in the US, we shared a small one floor 1960’s style house with my aunt and her husband, Ronald. My sister and I learned many important things in that house. I learned to bathe myself at the age of seven. I do not actually know when people start bathing on their own, but that’s when I started. I also had to learn how to pick up after myself, and most horrifyingly, making my bed. It was a huge drama because I hated making my bed. I hated it and I hate it now. It was hard on me not having Mirella. Now that I think of it, it must have been triple hard for my mom, who wasn’t used to cooking, cleaning, or any other housewife stuff. I remember how angry she’d get when we were messy, and how sad she’d be. She never wore makeup anymore or painted her nails, and she always complained of having dry hands from washing the dishes.

Back then, though, it was a cultural submersion for all of us, especially at school. I never showed off that I was from another country. Probably because I didn’t know English to begin with, but also because I wanted desperately to fit in. I wanted to be like the girls who were skinny like sticks and had straight blonde hair. I went to school two or three days after I got here. The first two weeks were the scariest, most terrifying time of my entire life. It was intimidating not to understand anybody, and I cried every day for two weeks. When I was in Colombia, I was the biggest crybaby. In fact, once I broke my arm, and nobody believed it was broken. It was my own version of the boy who cries wolf. This time though, I stopped being a crybaby. Now I just cried because I was really sad.I would cry because I didn’t know the Star Spangled Banner, because I had no one to play with at recess, or because I wanted my mother or my sister. I cannot imagine what people must have thought of me back then. I had a tutor whose name was Mrs. Forbes. I remember that there was a street named Forbes street, and I’d think it was named after her. She took me out of English class, and she taught me English with another Chinese girl. She would tell me, “Natalia, promise me that tomorrow, you won’t cry in the morning.”

As a frightened seven year old, I never thought why we came here. I only thought it was because of my dad’s work, and that I deeply wished to be in Colombia again. I didn’t feel grateful until a while later. I remember telling my cousin, “Laurita, do you like having family around, and eating all that bread and fruit, and living in a nice big house? Yes? Well don’t come here” I regret saying that now, but that’s what I felt about being here. I missed my family and my culture.

One of the things about coming here was that we were all children here. My mother didn’t know anything about the culture here, the norms, or the language. This is why my sister was always my second mother. My sister is my role model. She is the hardest working person I know, and I love her. She was the one who introduced our family to Sewickley Academy. She would comfort me when I cried at school, she would play dolls with me, and influence my music taste, movie taste, and thoughts. She knew what was in fashion, and what was right and wrong. She was very wise in all the advice she gave me. She would always say, “You’ve got it easy, Nata, just follow my footsteps or know what not to do” She was the one who raised me the most. I’m afraid my parents spoiled me too much, and my sister would tell me the truth (sometimes the bitter truth….) When my parents went out shopping and I wanted a candy bar, my sister would say, “Natalia, how ungrateful you are! Don’t you see that candy bar’s expensive?!?” and when she scolded me, I listened, even if I pretended not to by saying childish comebacks. One day I got invited to a party, and the hostess’s house was unbelievably huge. It was so huge, and I wanted it to be mine, and I could taste it being mine. That day, I cried when I got home, and told my parents that I was wished we lived like that. My parents said nothing, but my sister had a lot to say. She told me how I had really hurt my dad’s feelings that day, and how he told her not to tell me. She said that daddy works so hard everyday, and that I was being really ungrateful. Off course, I yelled back and said I was not ungrateful, but that night I got to thinking. That night I realized why we were in the United States. I realized how the people who lived here and had a big house, I realized that even though those people were 1% of the population, I had the opportunity to be like them.

My dad hadn’t just come for work related purposes. He and mom sacrificed themselves by giving up their comfortable lives, and families, and world in Colombia for us. My dad went to the best university in Colombia. He is so smart, but he worked for a year as a janitor in the US. And now, he works, and does a school at night, so that he can get a doctorate and a better job to help us with college. They are here for us, and they are finished. Our family is a staircase. We move up and that is the only option. As my father said, my great grandfather was a rich landowner, and my grandfather was a general, and they all were more successful than the last. My dad climbed a step to bring us here and now it was up to us to climb to the top. We were here to go to college and be whatever we wanted to be. That night when my sister told me how I made my father feel, I felt sick to my stomach. I’m not going to cry for the things I do not have, but I am going to work hard and get something even better.

To my family, citizenship was a finish line to a chapter of our lives. To me, It was pride. I am so proud of my father, my mother, my sister, and me. Because we all worked so hard to get here, and we all grew immensely by this experience. My mother and my father live for my sister and I. And I think this is beautiful, and I am so proud of our citizenship because it allows us to do anything and everything without any obstacle. Because America is on our side. If an angel were to walk up to my seven year old self and say that in seven years, you would move out of your aunt’s house, live in a big beautiful home, go to a private school, having a passion for the cello, and being able to control my future, I would say if God is willing. But it has happened. I am an American who has the potential to be whatever she wants to be. That makes me shudder because it’s so real I can taste it. This is what being a citizen means to me. It means growth, opportunities, and action.

I am so proud that if I work hard, I can do whatever I want. Though that sounds reasonable, it isn’t the case everywhere. That is the American culture and the American dream

The above post was written as a personal reflection by Natalia A., an 8th grade student.

Photo Set

Packing clothing for the kids at The Children’s Village.


A few days before departing for Carmiel, Israel, a group of six students, their chaperones, and some parents gathered in the Commons with several purposes in mind. The first order of business was to sort and organize the clothing donations that had poured in to the LS, MS and SS and begin packing extra suitcases to take the The Children’s Village over spring break. Dozens of pairs of new and barely-worn shoes were piled on the table, many with personal notes written inside for individual children in the village. The students have already started to connect with the children and their families in anticipation of meeting them and getting to know them during the trip. Students who will be participating in this service trip include Alex O’Connor, Emily Amato, Rachel Becker, Allexandra Hrishenko, Jacob Cronin, and Ellis School student, Katie Keim. Accompanied by Dr. Tsipy Gur and SA faculty member, Jerilyn Scott, the students leave on March 17 for Israel.

Then, over pizza and cookies, Classrooms Without Borders Education Director, Avi Ben Hur, spoke to the travelers about Israeli culture and what sights, sounds, and tastes they should expect. The students will be visiting the Galilee region, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and camping out one night in the Judean desert.

After the meeting, Avi spoke to students and members of the community in the Cavalier Room on the topic of the Arab-Israeli conflict, its history and current situation. This complicated subject spans several centuries, encompassing two World Wars, civil wars, multiple peace talks, assassinations, political uprisings, passionate extremist movements on both sides, and now terrorism. Avi, a native New Yorker who has lived in Israel since 1983, brings a depth of knowledge of history, archeology, and the current political situation which he shares with those who travel with Classrooms Without Borders.


Understanding the Connected World

GS Certificate Student Rosie Nocita ‘14 shares her thoughts about global connections and viewing global events through the lens of culture.


The Nicholas Sparks Foundation (yes, THAT Nicholas Sparks!) is offering a photojournalism contest for students. Interested?Follow the link: http://nsfjournalismproject.tumblr.com/

Description of the blog itself:
“Forum for students and teachers to share observations, suggestions, and reflections about global travel.”


"The Connected World" class had the honor of hosting Helene Cooper, former White House correspondent for the New York Times, and author of The House at Sugar Beach.. Students had the opportunity to visit with Ms. Cooper in a relaxed setting in Gregg Auditorium. They posed questions about her life in Liberia and whether she felt that her perspective in writing was influenced by her experiences growing up.

Click on the photo to view short video of her visit.