Exchange builds community



Elizabeth Smith
News Editor

RACHEL FUNG | The Broadview
RACHEL FUNG | The Broadview

After hosting a student from the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, sophomore Paige Biderman decided to reciprocate and make the journey to Omaha, Neb. as a part of the Network exchange program to experience living in the Midwest.

“My host family really focused on religion, and being Jewish, I had never seen how things might be different in a Catholic household,” Biderman said. “It gave me a new perspective on their religion and helped me understand a lot about their faith.”

The 22 Sacred Heart schools in the United States offer students the chance to live and attend school with a Sacred Heart girl on her campus. The geographical change — from California to Nebraska — was appealing, according to Biderman.

“I really wanted to see what a different part of the country was like, and I had never been to the Midwest,” Biderman said.

Despite being 1,665 miles away from San Francisco, Biderman’s teachers relied on her dedication to her work because her keeping up with her own curriculum was essential, according to dean Rachel Simpson.

“We recommend a two-to-three-week stay,” Simpson said. “Teachers have been flexible about work. They expect students to stay in contact, but understand that they may not be able to stay caught up on every single assignment.”

Aside from going to school with a host, there is a lot for a student to learn by attending another Sacred Heart school, according to Biderman.


“Even the little things were interesting,” Biderman said, referring to living in a town that did not have a transit system.

Simpson says there have been more exchanges across the Network this year than in recent past years, giving students the opportunity to stay with a family in another state and attend another school. Because of the greater emphasis placed on exchanges this year, more students have utilized this opportunity.

“The strategic focus to build connections with the other Network schools has contributed to a growing interest,” Simpson said. “That, and students have been saying ‘We want to do this.’”

Leaving behind the familiarity of San Francisco allowed for personal growth, according to sophomore Robin McGahey, who attended Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in New Jersey.


“I learned how to quickly adapt to a new experience, and I became much more independent,” McGahey said.

McGahey said the relationship that is built during an exchange extends beyond the time spent in the host’s house.

“I’m going back this summer to visit my host family,” McGahey said. “I was set up with a girl who wanted to come and visit San Francisco, and since I have always liked Princeton, Ms. Simpson gave me an application packet and I filled it out within the night.”

McGahey’s interest in the program was sparked on her first visit to Convent.

“Christie talked to me about it the day I shadowed at Convent as an eighth grader,” McGahey said, referring to admissions assistant Christie Checovich. “I have always loved the East Coast, so I decided to go.”

The decision to live and go to school in another state for a few weeks is not always an easy one, according to Simpson.

“Trust the fact that initially the exchange might be scary, but to take the plunge is the best thing,” Simpson said. “Anytime you open yourself up to meeting people and a different culture, it’s amazing. You’re learning different habits,and that’s a great kind of learning.”

The openness to learn from new people and new things is what makes the exchange a lasting experience, says McGahey.

“It builds community because I was able to interact with different people from across the country through the Sacred Heart system,” McGahey said. “I have bonded with people that I won’t forget for the rest of my life.”