Learning around the world

5 students trade summer vacations for foreign exchanges, travelling to two countries.


While most are planning to spend their summers vacationing, volunteering, working or with friends and family, a few members of the Convent community will embark on student exchanges throughout the Schools of the Sacred Heart Network and live with host families for extended stays this summer break.

“I’m excited because I’ve always wanted to go to school abroad,” sophomore Abby Anderson, who is going to Kincoppal-Rose Bay School in Sydney, said. “I jumped at the opportunity of an exchange to Australia because of what a foreign continent it is.”

While San Francisco schools will be out for summer break, Anderson will be in the midst of Australia’s winter for her exchange.

“Australia is a very popular destination for students right now,” Student Life Director Devin DeMartini Cooke said. “Sydney is great because students can go on exchanges during our summer so they still get the full experience, but it doesn’t impact class work.”

An exchange is a great way to visit a new city without embodying the tourist stereotype, according to Anderson.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the city as a ‘local’ while I’m there and I’m interested to compare the school’s culture to Convent’s,” Anderson said.

There are over 200 Sacred Heart schools spanning six continents and 30 countries. An average of eight Convent students participate in exchanges per year, an opportunity that allows global exposure and cultural competency, according to DeMartini Cooke.

“I think there is immense value to both the student and the community,” DeMartini said. “It calls on students to become ambassadors of the school and can help them connect with that real ‘Sacred Heart-ness’ in being a part of something that’s bigger than just being a high school student in San Francisco.”

The Sacred Heart Network’s exchange program allows room for language students to practice their speaking skills, according to sophomore Laura Mogannam, who will be spending a month at the Sophie-Barat-Schule in Hamburg, Germany this June.

“Because of what a global community we are as the Schools of the Sacred Heart, knowing a foreign language provides so many opportunities,” Mogannam said. “The exchange program is a great platform for students to communicate and share experiences through language.”

Going on an exchange to a non-English-speaking country can present challenges, according to Mogannam, who has studied German for the past 12 years.

“I’m nervous about the language barrier and the cultural differences,” Mogannam said. “Those minor things might make me seem like that stereotypical rude American, and I really don’t want to have that impression on people.”

Mogannam and her exchange student, Paola, correspond regularly through Snapchat and email, but Anderson is yet to be put in contact with her Australian student and host family.

“I’m both excited and nervous not knowing who my exchange student is,” Anderson said. “I’m anxious we won’t be able to relate to one another, but I’m excited to meet new people and  experience something different.”