Day 117: Susan, Director of Global Studies

[ By on April 08, 2013 ]

This is my third year at Riverdale as Director of Global Studies. While I have planned and organized dozens of trips, I only just finished chaperoning my sixth trip abroad with students. I must say that I am continually impressed with how well Riverdale students embrace the immersion experience and grow from it. I watch as students, who seem to be on the quieter side in class, come out of their shells and emerge as true group leaders and pioneers. I always love learning about and seeing the other sides of students, the parts of them that we do not get to see in the classroom. I will say that our student body has so many hidden and glorious talents. I have the privilege of seeing all of these great talents, abilities, passions and interests when we are abroad. What a special group of students we have here! I also cannot help but feel great personal and professional satisfaction when I witness new friendships blossoming as a result of these trips. Being in a different place amid a different culture seems to bring out the best in all of us. These groups always wind up working so well together despite their many differences. They not only help each other out in such thoughtful and genuine ways but also support one another and pick one another up.

One of the challenges but also great benefits of travel is the uncertainty of it all. No matter how much you plan, there are a great many things that you just cannot foresee. You have to be ready for the unexpected and learn how to adapt to whatever comes your way. The Middle School trip to Spain offered more of these moments than I had expected, and every single participant handled them beautifully. We all came out feeling even more gratified and accomplished because of them. It is from these experiences that we learn the most about life and ourselves. All of the students on this trip showed me how strong, resilient and gritty they really were. I am not surprised at all, but do want to say that I couldn’t be prouder. I don’t feel that this is something I just learned two weeks ago. I do, however, admit that this has been a realization that has been evolving over the last few years. Yes, no one can deny that students return from these trips feeling more confident in their language skills and in their language classes. To me though, the more fulfilling and significant part of this experience is the way in which all of us who participate grow as people and as a community and develop in our thinking and understanding of the world around us.


Susan Polise lives in Ridgewood, NJ with her brother, nephew and three dogs. When she is not teaching Spanish or arranging Global Studies experiences, she enjoys reading, going to the movies, playing and watching baseball and spending time with her family.

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