Academy girls spend summer immersed in all cultures

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Senior Alex Viso takes a break from her job to communicate with one of her favorites.

Jane Lazzara, AP Lit. Set 7

As September begins, most Academy girls have adjusted to their new grade level, teachers, and schedules, but memories of the summer months are still fresh on their minds.

The first two weeks of school included countless discussions about the variety of ways girls spent the summer months. Many girls experienced a “staycation” and relaxed in the Tampa Bay area, visiting local beaches and theme parks, while others trekked to distant corners of the earth.

Abena Baffoe-Bonnie experienced a summer full of excitement.  She attended the Phillips Exeter Academy summer school program in New Hampshire before she embarked on a trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. At the summer program, Baffoe-Bonnie befriended students from over 200 countries, including a girl named Mahrah, whom Baffoe-Bonnie later visited during her trip to the Middle East. While in Dubai, Baffoe-Bonnie and her family saw the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world, the Dubai Mall, the Arabian Desert, and much more.

Baffoe-Bonnie said, “Visiting Dubai was one of the best experiences of my life. I had traveled to many places before but I had never been to the Middle East.” She described her summer’s most memorable moment as her visit with Mahrah and her family, which she described as a “culture rich experience.”

Like Baffoe-Bonnie, Arlyn Barlaan also experienced a summer of learning about other cultures.  She spent the months before her senior year exploring foreign countries via cruise ship.  She toured the Philippines, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and China. Barlaan traveled to the Philippines several years ago, but she found this extensive trip to five nations exhilarating.

Barlaan said, “I’ve always been obsessed with Asia, especially South Korea and the Philippines, so it was such a blessing to be able to immerse myself in so many Asian cultures.  Most of my trip included visiting a lot of the historical sites in each country which helped me realize the importance of the countries.”  It thrilled Barlaan to see how the Filipino culture compared to the culture of the other neighboring countries.

Senior Amanda Bell stayed in the country, but she was far from home for several weeks at the Carnegie Mellon University pre-college program. She spent her time there as a musical theater major, taking a wide range of acting, singing, and dancing classes.

“It is one of the top programs in the country, so needless to say I learned a ton in my classes. The teachers were incredible and I was offered amazing training,” said Bell.

Bell met people from all over the country, and they all bonded over their common love for musical theater.  Spending the summer on a college campus excited Bell about beginning college life next fall.

Several Academy families travel south to the beautiful Florida Keys during the summer.  The Keys offer picturesque beaches, as well as boating and lobstering excursions. Senior Tori Litschgi’s family sails to the Keys on their boat every year.   This trip brings her family closer each year and Litschgi describes it as “a break from the world and technology because there is no internet or cell phone service.  It is a great bonding experience for the family.”

Academy girls traveled far and wide during their summer hiatus, but not all spent their time as tourists. Senior Alex Viso, who spends the summer visiting family in Miami each year, is one of many girls who took on a summer job.  The Miami Seaquarium hired Viso to help out during the busy summer months, when tourism peaks at the aquarium. She enjoyed working with the marine life, especially the dolphins.  She considered it a tiring, but worthwhile experience and is hoping to continue with this job in future summers.

Academy girls spent their free time in a variety of ways, but most would agree that the months flew by too rapidly.  Girls must now reluctantly set their alarm clocks and hit the books for the busy school year ahead, but the cherished months of summer left students with memories that will resonate for years to come.