2017-2018 Ashley Hall Travel Programs

Research has shown that effective and enriching school travel programs, both domestic and abroad, contribute to the development in students of critical thinking, increased historical empathy, elevated levels of tolerance, and sustained interest in the target subject matter. A recent study from the University of Minnesota found that instructor-led travel programs “introduce students to concepts, practices, locations, people, lifestyles, and a side of themselves that many have never encountered. When this fast, immersive experience is well facilitated and the meaning of what the students are experiencing is authentically engaged, students are empowered and their perspectives can grow to encompass new ways of thinking they had not previously imagined.” (Anderson, Lorenz, White 2016)

Ashley Hall Travel Programs are an extension of our school mission, our Hallmarks, and an enhancement of existing curricula to which they are relevant. All programs are proposed annually in a manner similar to an academic course, with definable and measurable pedagogical goals, and are unique, faculty-driven innovations, deriving from our teachers’ ambitious need to heighten curricular, professional and personal aspirations. Much effort is made to offer programs which are affordable and appropriately scheduled to create consistent opportunities for all students. 

There is limited aid available for international programs based on financial need. To apply, complete the application below and send to Janet Morrison in the Ashley Hall Business Office at morrisonj@ashleyhall.org.   

Application for Financial Aid for International Travel Programs

Program applications, more extensive itineraries, actual costs, and a schedule for pre-departure orientation sessions will be available in the months to come. To learn more, click the inquire button above or contact the travel leaders indicated below. 

Louisiana Bayous and Byways: Cajun, Creole, and Caribbean Influences on the American South

Louisiana Bayous and Byways: Cajun, Creole, and Caribbean Influences on the American South is a cross-curricular road trip that allows participants to experience the diverse cultural and environmental influences that have shaped the music, cuisine, literature, religious beliefs, social customs, and architecture of southern Louisiana. By providing an authentic cultural immersion experience, the trip will foster students’ abilities to appreciate the many connections between the place and its people. Participation in the trip will count as one of the three subject areas required for the Senior Thesis.

The journey begins in Acadiana, Louisiana’s “Cajun Country,” where students will learn the difference between Zydeco and Cajun music (dance steps, too);  enjoy an authentic Cajun feast in the kitchen of renowned chef Alzina Toups; take a boat tour of Lake Martin, one of the state’s largest waterbird nesting preserves; and witness the impact of rising waters and oil production on the state’s rapidly shrinking wetlands. Then it’s on to New Orleans, a melting pot of colors, flavors, and musical notes. Students will take a guided tour through the city’s historic Lower Ninth Ward, where 100% of the homes were rendered uninhabitable by the levee breaches during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and, if possible, complete a day of volunteer work with a non-profit organization. They will also explore the meaning of the term “Creole” as they meander through the historic French Quarter, visit historic literary landmarks and cemeteries, experience a traditional jazz performance at Preservation Hall, and sample sugar-dusted beignets at Cafe du Monde. Another highlight will be a tour of Laura Plantation, a beautifully restored Creole sugar plantation where Br’er Rabbit made his first appearance in the slave tales of Compair Lapin.

Participating students will:

  • Explore the concept of “cultural hybridity” as it applies to the cuisine, music, religious practices, architecture, festivals, and traditions of the area
  • Investigate the impact of human interventions and climate change on Louisiana’s shrinking wetlands
  • Explore the relationship between natural environment and culture
  • Develop a senior thesis topic related to an aspect of the trip itinerary

Where: Lousiana: New Orleans and Acadiana (Breaux Bridge, Lafayette)
When: October 13-18, 2017
Who: 12th graders
Approximate Cost: $1,000 (6 days/5 nights)
Travel Leaders: Libby Russler, Sarah Margaret Decker, and Meghan Ward
Application Deadline: TBA
Capacity: 18 students
Informational Meeting: August 2017, date and time to be determined
Contact: Libby Russler at russlerl@ashleyhall.org

New York City: The Importance of Building Bridges Rather Than Walls

The Importance of Building Bridges Rather Than Walls is a cross-curricular educational excursion designed with the main intent to give students the unique opportunity to delve into the relevant and complex themes of international relations, diplomacy, immigration and terrorism, while exploring the multi-cultural city of New York. In addition to being one of the most vibrant cities in the world, New York City is host to the headquarters of the United Nations as well as many other sites of international importance. Historically one of the arriving points for many people in desperate search for better opportunities, New York gained the reputation of a welcoming city, where integration is still possible, and where diversity becomes a resource and an opportunity rather than a threat. Especially in a time when it is becoming more and more popular to call for the building of walls to separate ourselves from what we are told is a threat to our identity and lifestyle, it is crucial, instead, to engage in conversation on the concept of building “bridges” to promote inclusion, empathy, and intercultural dialogue.

One of the main destinations of the trip will be the United Nations, where the students will be fully immersed into the captivating and ramified art of diplomacy and international relations. Our journey will then continue to Ellis Island, where students will face the prominent topic of immigration, specifically the main reasons that lead people to immigrate, the “journey of the immigrant” and the difficulties faced while trying to integrate into a different culture. Finally, the visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum will give students the opportunity to talk about terrorism, new wars, and collective security.

In addition to the historical and diplomatic exploration of the city, the excursion will take our students to investigate how the ideas of liberty, hope, and culture are vigorously embraced and promoted in New York via the arts, from graffiti and street vendors selling their wares to galleries, world-class museums, the majestic Statue of Liberty, and other inspired public spaces like the High Line and Central Park.

Participating students will investigate the following concepts:

  • Is justice better than revenge and forgetting?
  • Are human rights and international law really universal?
  • Can peace be reestablished through war?
  • How can art and artists unite and express the concepts of liberty, unity, and inclusion?
  • Physically and psychologically, how do design elements and structures divide, create imbalance, and exclude OR unite, make connections, and include? (from artwork to the High Line, walls, bridges, public spaces)
  • How can art alter the intended use of walls? (explore the movement of graffiti and tag art)
  • How does art educate and build understanding and empathy for a culture? (Statue of Liberty and Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art)
  • How can art be a catalyst for change and unity: how does it build bridges and alter the concept of walls?

Students who are required to write a Senior Thesis CAN (and therefore are not required to) incorporate research associated with this travel experience into their Senior Theses, and therefore use the trip as their third subject.

Where: New York City
When: October 14-18, 2017
Who: 11th-12th graders in Human Rights and 3D Studio Art
Approximate Cost: $1,000-$1,100 (not including airfare)
Travel Leaders: Andrea Muti and Nancy Langston 
Application deadline: TBA
Informational Meeting: August (TBA)
Contact: Andrea Muti at mutia@ashleyhall.org or Nancy Langston at langstonn@ashleyhall.org


Nestled east of Glacier National Park, the Blackfeet Reservation in Northern Montana lies within a remarkably unique and beautiful region of America. Blackfeet is an interdisciplinary trip that will provide Ashley Hall students with the unique experience of living and working on this reservation. By collaborating closely with community members of all ages, the students will be active participants in their surroundings. Through this program, students will:

  • Take part in the Pow Wow.
  • Complete service projects like painting, serving meals to elders, and contributing to a community garden.
  • Enjoy recreational activities like hikes through Glacier National Park, campfires, lessons in horticulture, workshops with skilled artisans, and trips to local museums.

The objective of this trip is to not only educate students on the diverse history of American culture, but for them to gain an understanding of their personal power to make a meaningful difference in their surroundings.

In order to participate in this engaging experience, students must display a desire to work within nature and an ability to thoughtfully collaborate with peers. Volunteer experience is helpful, but not required. 

Where: Blackfeet Reservation, Montana
When: June 4-10, 2018
Who: 6th-8th graders
Approximate Cost: $2,300-$2,700
Travel Leaders: Meghan Redel, Franny Slay and Lillian Apple
Application Deadline: September 19, 2017
Informational Meeting: September 5, 2017
Contact: Meghan Redel at redelm@ashleyhall.org

Showa Study Program

Showa Women’s University’s Junior/Senior High School is offering a week-long educational travel experience in Tokyo for one Ashley Hall teacher and one 10th grader for the dates of February 16-22, 2018. The teacher and student will experience true cultural immersion, including shadowing at Showa Junior-Senior High School, a home-stay experience in a Japanese home with a Showa family, and multiple excursions to Tokyo museums, neighborhoods, and sights. The chosen teacher and student will be directly exposed to the culture and traditions of Showa, the intricacies and massive scale of Tokyo, and the wonders of Japanese culture. In addition, with the assistance of Ashley Hall faculty, the student will connect her Oral Defense Project (ODP) to this experience and be assigned various preparatory work.

Where: Tokyo, Japan
When: February 16-22, 2018
Who: One 10th grader, 1 faculty member
Approximate Cost: $2,500
Travel Leader: TBA
Capacity: 1 student, 1 teacher
Application Deadline: September 1, 2017
Informational Meeting: TBA
Contact: Jeff Dionne at dionnej@ashleyhall.org 

The Spirit of Japan

Introducing a very special two-week travel experience to Japan for a select group of 10 rising 7th-9th graders in June of 2018, this program includes destinations of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and the Miyama region. Highlight experiences are: an independent study program before, during and after; shadowing in a traditional Japanese junior and senior girls high school in Tokyo; a 4-night home-stay in Tokyo with a school family; visits to various UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kyoto and Hiroshima, and a break from city life to the verdant Miyama region known for its thatched roof farmhouses and the traditional, authentic feel of rural Japan.  

Students will make new friends in Japan, be a student at a Japanese school, live in a Japanese home, experience three fascinating and unique Japanese cities, have fun dressing as a geisha, maiko, or ninja, and see what life was like hundreds of years ago in a gorgeous rural setting. The Tokyo area portion will be organized and led by Jeff Dionne, Director of Global Studies, who lived and worked in downtown Tokyo for 13 years. The Hiroshima/Kyoto/Miyama portion will be led by WalkJapan, selected by National Geographic as one of the 200 Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.

Through this experience, students will gain insights into the Japanese national character and view of self, the way Japanese perceive beauty and order, how Japanese view religion, and much more.

Where: Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Miyama
When: June 8-21, 2018
Who: 6th-8th graders
Approximate Cost: $5,000-$5,500
Travel Leaders: Jeff Dionne, Chris Hughes and Polly Rainey
Capacity: 10 students
Application Deadline: September 15, 2017
Informational Meeting: TBA
Contact: Jeff Dionne at dionnej@ashleyhall.org 

The Sound of Music | Vienna and Prague

The Upper School choir and strings programs will join together on this trip to Vienna and Prague. Students in Red Choir, Chamber Choir and 9th-12th grade Chamber Music are invited on this eight-day performance tour during the Holiday Break, December, 2017 through January, 2018. Seventh and eighth grade strings and choir will be encouraged to apply as well. The program includes three nights in Vienna, three nights in Prague, and performances of a large choral/orchestral work in multiple acoustically significant spaces.  Students will visit the State Opera House, Hofburg Palace, the tombs of Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert. They will spend New Years Eve in Prague, see the Old Town Bridge Tower, Prague Castle, and the Maisel Synagogue. Through this trip, students will experience important locations in Western art music and important historical locations. 

Where: Vienna and Prague
When: December 26, 2017-January 2, 2018
Who: Red Choir, Chamber Choir, Chamber Music (with spots available for applicants in 7th-8th graders in choir and strings)
Approximate Cost: $4,100
Travel Leader: Liz Dinwiddie
Capacity: 40 students
Application Deadline: August 24, 2017
Informational Meeting: TBA
Contact: Liz Dinwiddie at dinwiddiee@ashleyhall.org

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

A select group of 6th-8th graders will have the wonderful opportunity to experience life in the UNESCO World Heritage site of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, often described as one of the most European towns in Mexico. After Ashley Hall’s Head of School and Assistant Head of School traveled to Mexico in 2016, it was clear that the United States’ close neighbors is an untapped resource for collaboration.

Working on connections faculty members have in San Miguel, some for over 20 years, we sent two foreign language faculty to San Miguel in the spring of 2017 to scout potential sites for this program. They were delighted to find the pedestrian and tourist friendly town offers the perfect backdrop for a week-long immersion experience for younger Ashley Hall students. San Miguel is student-friendly, American-friendly and very walkable. The faculty found the people to be extremely warm and open, with families and children playing in the streets.

Students will attend one of the finest schools in the area, Academia Internacional, in the morning followed by a cultural excursion in the afternoon. Students will attend Spanish language classes as well as classes in Spanish such as P.E. and Dance. Highlights include a pen-pal communication with a student from Academia Internacional starting in the Fall of 2017, cooking a traditional Mexican dish with university culinary students, visiting Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s home, spending an afternoon on an organic farm, and much more. Students will stay with the Ashley Hall travel leaders in a private home in the very center of San Miguel de Allende, two blocks from the main square and a brisk 15-minute walk to Academia Internacional.

Where: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
When: February 17-24, 2018
Who: 6th-8th graders
Approximate Cost: $2,500-$3,000
Travel Leader: Katie Phillips
Application Deadline: TBA
Informational Meeting: TBA
Contact: Katie Phillips at phillipsk@ashleyhall.org

BEYOND: Incredible India

The goal of the BEYOND program is to provide Ashley Hall students with the opportunity to transverse boundaries of geography, culture, race, class and religion in order to actively participate in the existing effort to enact change among impoverished communities. The BEYOND trip for 2018 will return to Mumbai, India and partner with Magic Bus, an Indian-based NGO that works with students from impoverished communities throughout India and internationally. Ashley Hall students will participate in the Leadership Through Action Challenge Program that has been “developed to balance learning and applying team and leadership skills in the unique setting of [Magic Bus’] Mumbai City operation and the Outdoor Education Learning & Development Campus, 60 miles from Mumbai.” Based on the understanding that service-based trips often foster an imbalanced perspective of global and class relations, our partnership with Magic Bus provides students with the opportunity to be immersed in communities in and around Mumbai, engage in the effort to empower young people to overcome challenges associated with poverty, and learn from Indian staff of the specific challenges they face when working with diverse people groups.

In order to participate in this immersive experience, participants will be required to meet for regular informational meetings, read and discuss associated curricular material, and present on their travel experience in written and oral formats. Furthermore, students writing a senior thesis will be required to incorporate research associated with this travel experience.

Where: Mumbai, India
When: March 21-31, 2018
Who: 12th graders
Approximate Cost: $3,800-$4,500
Travel Leaders: Dana Molony and Katie Neighbours 
Application Deadline: September 15, 2017
Informational Meeting: August 31, 2017
Contact: Dana Molony and Katie Neighbours at molonyd@ashleyhall.org and neighboursk@ashleyhall.org 

Upper School French Immersion

The French Immersion Program at Ashley Hall provides an opportunity for students to live fully immersed in the French language and culture on their journey to becoming more linguistically and culturally competent. This venture broadens students’ global perspectives, deepens their comprehension of francophone world views, and helps them become more proficient in the language. The immersion trip for 2018 will return to Tours, France for three weeks where students will live with French host families and attend a language school, Centre Linguistique pour Etrangers (CLE), in the heart of the historic city. This experience couples formal classroom instruction with total immersion whereby every interaction is a learning moment.

In order to participate in this immersive experience, participants must have completed Intermediate-3 French and be 16 years old by the departure date. Additionally, participants will attend weekly lunch training sessions during second semester to prepare for life abroad.

Where: Tours, France
When: June 9-July 1, 2018
Who: 16 years of age and above who have completed Intermediate 3-French
Approximate Cost: $6,000
Travel Leader: Cindy Andrews
Application Deadline: October 2017
Informational Meeting: September 2017
Contact: Sarah Margaret Decker at deckers@ashleyhall.org

Charleston, South Carolina and Ghana, West Africa: Linked through Time

Although South Carolina and West Africa are over 5,000 miles apart, they were inextricably linked through the slave trade of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the negative effects of which are still manifested in rural Ghana today. According to the Ghanaian historian and lawyer Mohamed Shaibu Abdulai, “the slave trade actually prevented the coming into being of an agrarian revolution in Ghana, and likewise an industrial revolution. Because before you can industrialize you need to have stable agricultural production. So slavery has a very long effect.” Africa’s loss of millions of the strongest men and women during the slave trade is one reason for this underdevelopment.

This travel experience for students in rising 9th-11th grades will allow them a chance to explore the various ways in which the Atlantic Slave Trade is remembered, taught, and memorialized in Ghana, West Africa. At the same time, they will return to Charleston with a deeper understanding of how the Ghanaian culture has added richly to the current fabric of their city and this region of South Carolina. The travel experience will explore the significance of the connection of these two areas of the world and will give the girls an opportunity to lend their hands to improving the life of some of the rural Ghanaian families. Partnering with Project Okurase, one of whose founders is a professor currently at MUSC, the girls will see what it means to perform outreach in a sustainable and locally-driven manner.

The experience will begin with two or three days of class in the Charleston region, with visits to the following: Sullivan’s Island, the major site for the landing of the slave ships; and the Penn Center (St. Helena Island), a center of rich historical significance in the heart of the Gullah Culture. The trip to Ghana will be mainly focused on assisting with community projects in the village of Okurase, and there will be excursions to Elmina Castle, one of the most important stops on the Slave Trade route, Cape Coast, a restored UNESCO World Heritage site, and Kakum National Park, one of West Africa’s surviving tropical rain forests and home to over 40 large mammals and 400 bird species as well as many species of butterflies, flora and fauna.

Where: Ghana, West Africa
When: July 6-July 20, 2018
Who: 9th-11th graders
Approximate Cost: $4,600-$5,000
Travel Leader: Anne Weston
Application Deadline: TBA
Informational Meeting: TBA
Contact: Anne Weston at westona@ashleyhall.org

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Ashley Hall is an independent private school for girls, serving kindergarten through twelfth grade students, with a coeducational preschool.