2019 Upper School Intersession Trips

Click to Learn More About Upper School Intersession Week

SSFS students learn about the world by being in the world. Intersession is an important component of the emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning at SSFS. It is a one- to two-week period in the spring in which all Upper School students and faculty participate in special projects locally, nationally, or abroad. Trips might involve community service, outdoor education, arts activities, scientific exploration, cultural and language immersion, historical or informational trips, or a combination of the above. All Upper School students are required to participate each year, and all students participate in at least one service intersession during their four years of high school. You can see full descriptions of the 2018-19 trips (listed below) here. (The * denotes a service intersession.)

  • 9th Grade Trip to Florida
  • A Taste of Art 
  • Belgium: Art, History, and Chocolate
  • Charleston, SC, and Sea Island Habitat for Humanity *
  • Civil War and Civil Rights
  • El Camino de Santiago: Hiking Spain's "The Way of Saint James"
  • Head Start *
  • New York City: Cultural Center of the World
  • Potpourri of Service*
  • Paint the Desert: New Mexico
  • Quaker Legacy of Social Justice
  • Rock and Reefs: Science Immersion in Bermuda *
  • SED Center: Service to the Latin American Community *
  • SSFS and Friends: Let Your Lives Speak Through Service *
  • Vietnam
  • West Virginia Trip *

Students and faculty leaders send blog updates from their trips throughout the Intersession week (March 18-22, or later for trips that extend into spring break). These updates will be posted daily on this page throughout the week in reverse chronological order. We always look forward to hearing about the amazing and transformative educational adventures of the students during the week.

  • Trip updates are posted daily throughout the week of March 18-22. You many need to refresh this page to view the latest posts.
  • More photos are available to parents, faculty/staff and students via our password-protected photo sharing service on Vidigami. To access Vidigami: login to the Parent Portal page and click the Photo Galleries - Vidigami link. Online instructions are here. Once you are logged in, click this link to view the Intersession albums, or click the square SSFS logo at the left and scroll down to the blue "Off-Campus" section. There is a folder called Intersession, and separate folders for each Intersession trip.
  • See descriptions of 2019 Intersession opportunities here

2019 Trip Updates

Aron B and Benjamin U

On the morning of Tuesday, March 19, we woke up prepared to take on the long day. Our journey started at 6:45 am, with no delightful breakfast, premade. We departed from the Habitat for Humanities house and arrived at the worksite at approximately 8:00 am. After given a brief introduction, we immediately got to work digging the foundation for a house. We worked tirelessly for the first four hours with the site manager to dig out a 40 by 24 inch canal. Due to the frigid weather, we decided to venture out for lunch. We went to a local cafe called Black Magic. There we enjoyed a succulent lunch, then proceeded back to the worksite. There we stayed for about two hours before completing the final details for the foundation. Afterwards we split into two groups, one going to the store to acquire necessities for the group to last til our departure. The other group returned to the house to prepare for our second night in downtown Charleston.

Intersession 2019 - South CarolinaWe arrived around 5:50 in downtown Charleston to procure the dinner of your choice and then met up at St. Johns Lutheran Church at 6:45 pm in order to observe our group leader, Leah Niepold’s alma mater, Hamilton college choir perform an astounding acapella set of songs. Afterwards we were provided light refreshments and a space to meet and greet with the choir. We spoke with the acapella group for ten minutes about their college experience, and their journey into the musical arts, before proceeding home in the vans for a refreshing good nights sleep in order to prepare for our work-filled day tomorrow.

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainUnderstandably sore, from the accumulating physical toll, our morning mental fog would surrender by breakfast’s end to another glorious day. Weather has a measurable effect on the spirit, and we remain blessed thus far to be uplifted by the inviting warmth of the sun. Also feeling the proverbial burn, the team coordinated a morning stretch before resuming our Way.

Driven by endeavor, today’s walk would be our second of four consecutive half marathons (22.8km to be precise), from Palas de Rei to Castañeda. While an indisputable challenge, success would mean that our destination of Santiago de Compostela would go from a distant dream to a tantalizing reality, leaving us 46.5 kilometers away and two days to get there. 

Undoubtedly, the Camino de Santiago has a defined target on which pilgrims are singularly focused. However, the journey — that is the process — is often the most satisfying and revelatory part of any trek. To say the least, there’s a lot to be learned along The Way. In Quaker terms, eventually the way really does open. In our case, The Way has been opening. For example, the mundane seems exceptional in the wake of our long walks, food tastes better, a smile warms more, kindness is precious, a shower heals, rest is a reward, and sleep’s a gift. Virtues like gratitude and humility rise to the surface, just as perspective becomes clearer.

Among the rolling green landscape of the lush Galician countryside, dotted with farms, stonewalls, and tiny Romanesque churches, lies the town of Melide, renowned in foodie circles for two very different culinary treats: octopus and the famed, tiny, green Pimientos del Padrón. As the saying goes, when in Melide… With a spirit of adventure, it was wonderful to see so many students go from suspect to aficionado in their first reluctant bites of each.

In Melide, the main branch of the Camino Primitivo — the earliest of all the pilgrimage routes, coming from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela — merges with our route, the Camino Francés. Understandably, the closer we get to Santiago de Compostela, the more pilgrims we encounter and the more friends we reconnect with, leapfrogging one another at our respective rest stops and, in many cases, staying at the same albergues and hostels. Not all of us are on Intersession, but we are all on our Way.

2019 Intersession - SpainThe Camino teaches the valuable lesson that appreciation requires perspective. In order to really appreciate comfort, it helps to really experience discomfort. Our reward for today’s toll was being the exclusive guests at Pazo de Sedor, a seventeenth-century manor house founded by Francisco González do Vilar, in the town of Castañeda. This traditional Galician noble house has been restored to perfection, from its singular balcony that runs the full length of the building, and crowned by a large Baroque chimney, to a spectacularly grand, stone, main staircase and “lareira” with its enormous fireplace and two wood ovens.

May tonight bring sweet dreams, as tomorrow will see us working our angels overtime. As we reflected together last night, “coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.” Onward, together.

2019 Intersession - Spain

Meghan Cassidy

2019 Intersession - A Taste of ArtTo start the third day, students finalized their drawings that will later become screen prints. We travel to Pyramid Atlantic in Hyattsville to get started with this process. We stopped for delicious coffee at a local coffee shop and then took a tour of Pyramid Atlantic. What a beautiful artist space! Students started the process of turning their prints into screens. We then went to a local art supply store, and everyone picked out art supplies or small pieces of art. We then went to Busboys and Poets for lunch, and enjoyed the bookstore.  We can’t wait to see how the screens turned out, and tomorrow we make prints! 

 

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

Ilene Lees

2019 Intersession - Quaker Legacy of Social JusticeToday we drove to A Wider Circle in silver spring. This organization helps people in need of clothes, household items, and furniture. There are over 50 employees, and they treat all clients with dignity and respect. Junior Joel Azar said “I liked helping the pregnant woman who came in looking for items for her baby. We not only gave her clothes, but we helped her decide what clothes and accessories she needed. She is expecting a baby this weekend.” We spent the day organizing clothes donations, moving furniture, and organizing the children’s toys. This is an amazing organization and we were grateful to help them today. 

 

2019 Intersession - Quaker Legacy of Social Justice

2019 Intersession - Quaker Legacy of Social Justice

Anne Pulju

2019 Intersession - New YorkOn Tuesday, our New York cultural tour took us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s greatest – and largest – museums. While we had a few hours for exploring, days wouldn’t be enough to encounter all of the extraordinary artworks at the Met, so we split up so that each student could explore individual interests. Several reported being startled and even emotional to see the real-life versions of artworks they had previously been introduced to in Arts and Ideas classes or through popular culture. Degas, Vermeer, and Chinese traditional arts were big hits. After a dim sum dinner, we headed back to Lincoln Center for a concert of chamber music featuring a variety of pieces by most of the great Russian composers (Rubinstein, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky). Highlights included Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio and Shostakovich’s Jewish Folk Poetry, written as an act of solidarity with Russia’s Jewish community in 1948 but not performed until 1955, well after Josef Stalin’s death. We look forward to more cultural explorations tomorrow – and to continuing to put our new skills at hailing taxis and navigating subway turnstiles to use.

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

Claire Donahue

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of ServiceThe goal of Potpourri of Service is to expose students to a wide variety of local community service opportunities. Our group gathered early Monday morning for a bus ride from Sandy Spring to SE Washington, D.C., a distance of barely 30 miles but in many ways another world. After a short orientation to the William Penn House on Capitol Hill by Executive Director Andrei Israel, we made lunch and then walked to Union Station. 
 
Arriving at Forest Glen, we took another brisk walk to “A Wider Circle." There we joined other volunteers in supporting A Wider Circle’s ambitious mission of ending poverty. Students worked at various tasks from moving donated furniture to sorting baby clothes and cleaning floors. We were so impressed by A Wider Circle's commitment to providing quality and choice to families living without basic necesiities, and their firm belief that no matter what walk of life people are born into, everyone deserves dignity.

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service
             
After dinner at Union Station, we returned to William Penn House, exhausted by all our walking! The evening was low-key, with some time for reflection on the day, an introduction to the concept of “food deserts,” and relaxing in the comfortable living room. Everyone was “tired... and also very tired,” so Cathy and Claire didn’t have to convince anyone to go to bed early! 

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of ServiceThe next day we had a short Meeting for Worship before breakfast, and got ready to leave at exactly 8:29 am and 59 seconds to catch the Metro bus.  We walked to D.C. Urban Greens Fort Dupont farm, where a small but welcoming group of farm staff set us to work preparing garden beds and moving compost. We enjoyed seeing how a small green space can make a huge difference in the ability of local residents to access affordable fruits and vegetables. We were grateful to have a beautiful, cool, sunny day to dig in the dirt, and even more grateful that most of us have easy access to healthy food. Our work ended with lunch at Eastern Market, which was definitely not a food desert! Tomorrow we look forward to another outdoor work day, with Rock Creek Conservancy.

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service

Jeremy Adkins

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil RightsVenturing into yet another state, students on the Civil War/Civil Rights intersession travelled to Manassas, Virginia, to visit the site of the very first battle of the Civil War. Upon arrival, the students were met by Park Volunteer Audrey Sisel, who directed the group to their service project of the day. Tasked with the beautification and trash clean-up of one of the most popular trails at the park, students explored the site of Bull Run River while ensuring that their National Parks are in pristine condition. Following the service period, the group went to the visitors center where Audrey explained the first battle of the Civil War, and how it came to host even a second battle. Bearing witness to both of those battles was Jim Robinson, a freed African American, whose house sits on the battlefield. Students were treated to a walking tour of the battlefield that eventually led them to the ruins of Jim’s house. There, they learned how he married a slave, purchased her so that she could be free, and he attempted to purchase or secure most of his children. When the war raged in his front yard, twice, he awoke to two separate Confederate victories. Before the end of the tour, students were invited to reflect on the perspective of Jim Robinson, and how he, as a freed African American, might have felt after witnessing an army that was fighting for the enslavement of his people, win two major victories at his doorstep.

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil Rights

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil Rights

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil Rights

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainToday began with a morning, guided walking tour of historic Lugo, the only city in the world to be surrounded completely by intact Roman walls, along a 2,117 meter circuit, ringed with 71 towers. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and quite impressive to behold. Afterward, we transferred back to Portomarín, and resumed our Way where we left off the day before, along the banks of the Miño River. 

It was officially time to bid adieu to our “training wheels.” Since our arrival four days ago to Madrid, we have had the luxury of having access to our very own Rocinante, our trusted “steed” in the form of a comfortable bus and our faithful and rather karmic driver, Jesús. From here on out, while our primary luggage will continue to get the royal treatment, by way of a luggage service, we no longer have the fortune of tagging along for the luxurious ride.

Having already passed our “warm-up” walks, today would also be our longest to date — 22.9 km — and, without the fallback of a bus any longer, we were all understandably feeling as anxious as we were excited about the challenge ahead. Of course, not having available such a luxurious convenience makes the choice before us quite easy and singular: walk on. It’s really that simple…and it is what we each signed on for. Be it interpreted literally or philosophically, there are multiple truths to the notion that “moving forward gets us closer.”

It didn’t hurt that we had a picture perfect day — neither too hot nor too cold, and the sun accompanied us every step of the way. So, with one foot placed in front of the other, we marched wherever the yellow arrows and scallop shells pointed, through verdant forests, grassy meadows, fertile orchards, and simple stone-built hamlets, scattered over a deeply rural landscape. The beauty of Green Spain’s rolling landscape is so intoxicating that the accumulating physical toll appears almost to ambush you. After another heaping lunch, we powered through, pressing onward, until reaching our destination: charming timber cabins in Palas de Rei. If a little weathered and weary, our collective feelings of accomplishment dwarfed our fatigue. 

Through lush Galician countryside, today we walked 22.9 more bucolic kilometers. Having reached the geographical midway point of our shared adventure — kilometer 64 of 128 — something inspirational and gratifying has happened. We have become a team: loyal to and concerned for one another while collectively driven to accomplish our goal. Beyond good humor, the key ingredient that binds us together is the difficulty tied to the objective, as it’s precisely the challenge that makes what we’re doing special and worthwhile. Perhaps this is in part what Maryland author John Barth meant in his acclaimed novel The Tidewater Tales when he wrote, “We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.” In other words, there are some things worth the sacrifice. Our team has agreed that walking the Camino de Santiago is among them. Tomorrow our Way continues.

Meghan Cassidy

March 18

We started our week down in D.C viewing wonderful art at the Hirshhorn Museum and Freer gallery. Lozano-Hemmer’s "Pulse" is absolutely worth a visit!  We then lunched at the Capital Grille--what a treat!

March 19

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, we had a wonderful opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at some pieces by renowned artists: Ansel Adams, Picasso, Julia Mehretu, Andy Warhol, Joseph Stella, Rembrandt, and Edgar Degas to name a few. Students were able to spend time with the pieces and use magnifying glasses to examine them more closely.  Not your typical museum experience! We also spent time with an art conservationist who walked us through the process of what it takes to preserve art through generations. We then went for a delicious lunch at Golden West cafe and a stroll around the eclectic Hampden neighborhood shops.

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

Julie Borsetti

Julie Borsetti sends on photos from our local service Intersession "SSFS & Friends" from Monday and Tuesday. Some of the group worked with the Pre-K class, and some helped maintenance by spreading mulch along a path. 

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

Kerry Foley

Kerry Foley and Josh Moffitt sent over a few photos of the 9th graders enjoying their time camping at the beach and feeding the tarpons at Robbie's!

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

 

 

Anne Pulju

2019 Intersession - New YorkOur second day in New York started with a subway trip to Columbus Circle, where we had a little time to explore the urban oasis of Central Park (art in itself) before heading to the famed Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. Our first stop at Alvin Ailey was participating in a Zumba class that was attended by not only members of the community but also some dancers from the famous company itself. Kudos to those who made it through the entire high-energy class without a break – Maeve, Zoe, Tim, Pam, and Sibyl, plus your uncoordinated but dedicated SSFS teachers! After the class, we were greeted by SSFS alumnus Michael, a pianist with the Ailey company, who gave us insight into one of the many ways a love for the arts can become a career. Further insight into arts education was provided by our tour through the school and its beautiful rehearsal spaces. Most of all, we gained insight into the ways the arts can affect society; Alvin Ailey and his colleagues were true pioneers in civil rights and modern dance, and we were lucky to have this opportunity.

2019 Intersession - New YorkIn the evening, we travelled to one of the most celebrated performance spaces in the world, the Metropolitan Opera House, for Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. While the plot started a bit slowly for some of our novice operagoers, the drama soon picked up, and we were all startled by the story’s end! (No spoilers – ask your student.) We were especially impressed by the stunning scenery (recreations of real sights in Rome) on the huge stage. For Tuesday, we look forward to experiencing more visual art, some chamber music, and plenty of friendship and camaraderie.

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

By Alisha L and Lara C

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaOn Monday we woke up to the sound of smoke alarms from the wonderful breakfast Frank, Ben, Kelise, Arron, and Kennedy made for us.  After breakfast we all got into the vans and headed to the Habitat for Humanity orientation, where we learned many things about Charleston and the community. We then continued to our work site where we met our leader Doug. He showed us some quick building tips and sent us off to different assignments to the houses. We drove home for lunch, and returned for the rest of the work day, seeing many accomplishments with the houses! Afterwards, we drove to the beach and enjoyed the breezy scene. That evening we all relaxed and made tacos at home. 

2019 Intersession - South Carolina2019 Intersession - South Carolina

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainFollowing another lovely continental breakfast, our morning kicked off with a short walk about Villafranca del Bierzo. Having arrived the night before, we strolled along the banks of the crystalline river that raced alongside our accommodations and whose rhythmic flow lulled us all to sleep the previous evening. Our guide, Bruno, led us to a picturesque lookout of all the town, where a stretch morphed into an impromptu mini Meeting for Worship, before we all boarded our bus and climbed upward, pushing onward, westward.

Up and up we drove, switch-backing for the next forty minutes out of the valley, until reaching the summit at O’Cebreiro, the highest point on our journey. Sprinkled with hobbit-like dwellings called Pollozas, this Tolkienesque mountaintop village is best known for its centerpiece, a lovely 12th Century Romanesque church that claims that its exquisitely simple goblet under glass is...The Holy Grail! With our Pilgrim’s Passport in hand, this holy place to so many around the world seemed a more than fitting locale to choose our own unique scallop shell: symbol of the Camino de Santiago. If we were tourists before, now we were officially pilgrims.

2019 Intersession - SpainFrom there we began a beautiful descent, out of the mountaintop, through blossoming meadows, this time on the other side of the valley, and eventually, to our surprise, past palm trees, and into Samos. Here we roamed around the Benedictine monastery, one of the oldest in western Christendom, and then made our way by bus to a drop off near the quaint, countryside town of Mouzos where we continued our way along the Camino through a Maryland-like landscape whose resemblance was comforting to the mind and warming to the soul.

Day 3 of our trek along the Camino also brought us into Galicia. This verdant area of the country is aptly nicknamed Green Spain. In complementary fashion, our soundtrack continues to be Celtic music, as this area is so heavily influenced by its neighboring island ancestors. Most every tavern we pass, restaurant we enter or store we peruse echoes with lilting harps and Irish flutes that rise and fall to the beat of syncopated drums, a perfect soundtrack to help push us onward on our inspired mission. It all really comes together quite epically.

2019 Intersession - SpainWhile our walks prior to today were warmups, today’s march out of Sarria marked our first official day on the Camino as pilgrims. Another natural step up, totaling 15.3 km, we were feeling pretty accomplished and tired upon our crossing of the Miño River at Portomarín. In fact, our walk culminated in a rather dramatic scene, ascending a tall staircase and posing with arms above our heads and fists clenched, reminiscent of that famous, celebratory moment in Rocky. It was precisely while basking in our glory that the accented voice of a non-native English speaking pilgrim graciously wished us “Buen Camino.” Thanking him, we inquired about his journey. He was a young Croatian man, traveling alone, who had begun his pilgrimage in Moscow 7 months and 16 days ago! Of course, he equally inquisitively reciprocated. Honestly, if sheepishly, we replied that today marked day one for us and that our coach bus was awaiting to drive us to our hotel in Lugo. Someone once said, “you can look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.”

Tomorrow our pilgrimage begins in earnest, as we plan to walk the remaining 92.2 km from Portomarín to Santiago de Compostela, starting with a 22.9 km stretch to Palas del Rei. In fact, each of the next four days will challenge our team with treks greater than a half marathon. Perhaps, when we inevitably begin to ache and feel sorry for ourselves over the next four days, we will find some perspective in the afterimage of that Croatian pilgrim, as tomorrow will mark 7 months and 17 days for him, walking alone, on the Camino de Santiago.

* Note: Many students have uploaded their photos to the Vidigami photo album; current families can log in to the SSFS website and view their spectacular photos here

Jeremy Adkins

2019 Intersession - Civil War & Civil RightsToday, students from SSFS met with Park Ranger Samantha Zurbuch and Park Volunteer Dave Cahan, who guided them through a series of service projects at Harper’s Ferry National Park. Divided into two groups, students hiked through the park cleaning litter and debris, as well as cleaning the John Brown Fort, and cleaning and waxing park waysides. Harper’s Ferry was the first stop on this Intersession due to John Brown’s Raid. Hoping to inspire a slave rebellion, John Brown led a group of abolitionists to seize the weapons armory, and revolt against the soldiers stationed there. His rebellion failed, but the ideology that inspired the raid laid the foundation for the Civil War. Harper’s Ferry is also home to the first historically black college, Storer College. Founded in 1865, Storer College sought to provide higher education to the 30,000 freed slaves of the area. Its doors closed following the passage of Brown v. Board of Education, and the W. Va board ended Storer College’s annual financial stipend.

2019 Intersession - Civil War & Civil Rights

2019 Intersession - Civil War & Civil Rights

Intersession 2019 - Civil War & Civil Rights

Ariel Voorhees

2019 Intersession - SED CenterTwenty sophomores boarded the Metro at Glenmont station on a Monday morning, March 18. Some were nervous, some smiling, some excited, and some sleepy.  After a quick orientation to the system map and Metro etiquette, they embarked toward Petworth, DC, to begin their week-long volunteering residency at the Spanish Education Center. Celebrating its 48th year of service to the Latin-American Community in NW DC, the SED Center hosts education programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and adults. This residency is the continuation of a long-standing relationship between SED and Sandy Spring Friends School. 

2019 Intersession - SED CenterAssigned in groups of three to work in classrooms of three- and four-year-olds, the Sandy Springers quickly sprang to action. “The kids are really nice; they all just wanted to hug us the whole time. Some of them were kind of shy at first but opened up as the day went on,” one sophomore wrote in a first-day reflective journal entry.  Their main job was to serve as assistant teachers and to propel the curriculum of developmental and educational activities. “The main teacher had so much on her plate; she had to take care of everyone, and I’m sure it’s very stressful! I really hope I can come back after Intersession to play with the kids, improve my Spanish, and decrease the stress of some of the teachers,” another Springer wrote.  

While some of the teens had a lot of prior experience, several who were working with young children for the first time learned how difficult it can be. “Since it’s the first day, I was a bit exhausted, but I think I had fun,” one wrote.  Another shared, “The kids were fun, but they don’t listen.” In the words of a third, “Being firm with the kids is hard, so you need a good middle ground.”  

2019 Intersession - SED CenterBut in general, the Sandy Springers appreciated the sweetness and love that the preschoolers freely gave. “On the walk to the playground, I was surprised that they really wanted to hold my hand tightly on the way.  We raced together and I let them get on my back to run around the playground at least fifteen rounds.” Another sophomore wrote, “Chasing and being chased by the kids on their tricycles was easily my favorite part. I was honestly worried about them running in to me, but it was fine.” Along the way, the SSFS students were able to practice their Spanish in order to communicate with the children and the instructors. 

After spending the morning with their preschool classes, the Sandy Springers helped serve the preschoolers’ lunch and said goodbye until tomorrow. Then the group traveled to downtown Silver Spring to sample Greek food, the first of five ethnicities represented in our lunch restaurant selections. Next up: Japanese sushi, Venezuelan arepas, Indian street food, and Spanish tapas. 

We had a great first day learning outside of the typical high-school classroom, and we’re eager to learn more as our relationships deepen and our confidence grows throughout the week!

2019 Intersession - SED Center

Vietnam Intersession Students and Staff

The Vietnam Intersession students and staff sent on some photos from their trip during some downtime. High-res versions + more photos are available by logging in to the School website and then accessing the Vidigami album

From Fernanda V - In the market with a baby named Duc Tri:

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Sebastian G - This picture was early in the morning. We all got up early and took a boat up the Mekong delta to visit the floating market. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Brodie S - This is a photo of our connecting flight to South Korea. I took it when I got up to stretch my legs. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Brendan P - This was taken at the Floating Market in Can Tho, Vietnam. We were on the boat early in the morning to see all of the people buying and selling things on the water. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Gillies A - 6:27 am, on the way to visit the floating market. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Quinn F - We were at the floating market and we tried pineapple and got to see how people buy and sell things on the floating market. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Harry L - The reason this picture is awesome is two-fold: Alan's face, and the pure bliss between Alex and Musa. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Fatima J

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Alan B - This is a picture from the Can Tho region in South Vietnam. This is my view of the Mekong Delta from my hotel room. After a long and tiring second day, it was nice to relax in our hotel rooms.

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

Preston and Jasper

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaToday we continued to get settled into our house, sleep in, and continue to enjoy good food. We had a lovely brunch at Ms. Rose’s, met with an alumni of SSFS, and then continued into Charleston to watch one of Leah’s old a capella member’s a capella group, the Charlestones. They performed three beautiful songs for us in a private performance to welcome us to Charleston. We then had free time to explore the lovely downtown of Charleston, and we then visited the beautiful Aquarium of South Carolina. Here, we saw many animals including an ecstatic sea otter that was happy to see some new faces. We then continued to have a bit more free time to explore more of the downtown and have dinner. Many of us went to Beech with amazing Açaí bowls and Poké bowls. After the delicious food, we continued to explore more of the local stores and the amazing Charleston market.

2019 Intersession - South Carolina

Anne Pulju

2019 Intersession - New YorkThe New York group arrived in the city Saturday afternoon and has already enjoyed a whirlwind of culture! We were all thrilled by the high energy choreography and the positive message of the Broadway show Kinky Boots on Saturday evening. Sunday morning, we explored modern American art at the Whitney Museum (currently featuring a special retrospective of Andy Warhol) and then found a unique perspective on urban architecture by walking the High Line, a former elevated train track that has been turned into a remarkable park. In the afternoon and evening, it was back to Broadway again for The Band’s Visit (a thoughtful exploration of an Egyptian band’s visit to a small town in Israel with beautiful use of traditional music styles) and Mean Girls (luckily, we don’t have any mean students in our group!). On Monday, we’ll have the privilege of not only touring the Alvin Ailey Dance School but also taking a class there before we move on to more museums and the opera. 

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

 

Eduardo Polon

Feeling rejuvenated from a well-earned night’s sleep in our wonderful hospedería in beautiful León, the third day of our intersession began with an 8:00 am smorgasbord breakfast of buttery croissants, homemade Spanish Tortilla, hot chocolate, coffee, pound cake, lemon tarts, fresh breads, and morning spreads, followed thankfully by a guided walking tour of León, from its great cathedral, with fabulous stained-glass windows, one of the world’s masterpieces of Gothic art, to the Royal Basilica of San Isidro to see the remarkable frescoes in the Pantheon of Kings, one of Spain’s great Romanesque treasures; and the Caja de León, one of only two Gaudi works outside of Cataluña.

2019 Intersession - SpainThe second part of our morning consisted of a short bus ride to historic Astorga, where we explored the town’s extensive Roman ruins. Exploited for gold, Astorga was chosen by the Romans for its critical location in the region. From the Legion walls and the Forum in honor of Octavius Augustus to the complexity of the bath house and sophisticated sewer system, Astorga serves as a powerful example of just how far west the Roman Empire reached. Equally interesting, but much more delicious, was the realization that Astorga happens also to be considered Spain’s chocolate capital.

Today also marked the official start of our long walk westward, with its eventual final destination of Santiago de Compostela. Following a short transfer and stroll through the charming village of Castrillo de los Polvazares, one of Spain’s best preserved medieval villages, our first official walk westward on the Camino as pilgrims began with a gentle walk, a sort of preliminary test, to ensure we were all working together, on the same page (read “pace”). Passing with flying colors, our reward was a delicious lunch in a charming Spanish tavern…on St. Patrick’s Day no less!

After lunch, a second walk would better test our stamina: a jaw-droppingly picturesque, 7 km ascent, passing through the stone hamlet of Foncebadón, gently climbing, under a dramatic sunset, to one of the simplest, yet most ancient and symbolic monuments of the Camino: La Cruz de Ferro (The Iron Cross). Here pilgrims throughout the ages have placed stones, creating a huge mound at the base of the cross, each representing someone’s prayer. Having carefully chosen our own stones along the way, each of us left our own prayers atop the mound of wishes. This was a very special moment both collectively and privately.

We descended the mountain by vehicle, past dramatic switchbacks and stunning vistas of the valley below, through Manjarín, with its medieval pilgrim’s refuge, quaint Acebo, and Ponferrada, with its famous Templar Castle, to our final destination of Villafranca del Bierzo, known as Little Compostela for its profusion of historic buildings. In all, today we covered some of the most beautifully varied terrains and locales in the region. Feeling accomplished, and following another delicious three course dinner that ended after 10:00 pm, we walked back together to our hostel where the owner, anticipating our needs from the briefest of inquiries at check-in, went out of his way to arrange the lobby furniture in order for us to conduct our evening reflection, before laying our heads down for another well-earned night’s sleep.

Frank Sheffield '20 and Brandon Riley '20

South Carolina Intersession 2019Today, as Habitat for Humanity connoisseurs, we were ready to make the world a better place. As a group we arrived at Baltimore Washington International Airport at 10:00 am. Our faces gleamed in the light as we saw our amazing Sandy Spring Friends School friends. One could tell the group was bursting with excitement from anticipation of the trip. We eventually made our way to the terminal and excitedly walked to the gate. The group boarded the plane as engaged and focused individuals. The flight was very interesting: specifically, the takeoff. At first the plane took off normally and gradually sped up. After about a minute into the flight, the plane hit some turbulence while accelerating to its cruising height. Some of us were frightened for their lives, and some people started to have life-changing realizations. Luckily, the turbulence was over quickly.

South Carolina Intersession 2019As a group we landed and jumped on the van to get some much-needed food. We embarked on the route to Boxcar Betty (check them out at boxcarbetty.com) The sandwiches that the students ate were described as exceptional, phenomenal, and transformative. Next, we were off to see the house that we were inhabiting this week. The house was amazing, but we desperately needed to fill the kitchen. As a group we went to the Bi-Lo grocery store and picked up each and every item we desired. We made our way back to the house and reflected on our anticipation of the days ahead.

PS: Thanks Leah and Tobi [trip leaders] for your investment in our future making us better people as a whole. Also thank you to all the SSFS parents for allowing us to grow as people and embark on this incredible experience.

South Carolina Intersession 2019

Eduardo Polon

2019 Spain IntersessionOur first blog posts come to us from the "El Camino de Santiago: Hiking Spain's 'The Way of Saint James'" Intersession! 

March 15th:
With a highly anticipated, albeit long, overnight of travel ahead of us, including two flights — from Washington, DC to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and then on to Madrid, Spain — our Spanish adventure began with a 1:30pm EST departure from SSFS in order to arrive in time to Dulles International Airport with the requisite three hour check-in expected of all transcontinental flights, let alone student group trips. From unexpected flowing Beltway traffic and easy check-in to an uneventful security check and smooth boarding, all went as well as could be hoped for. Our plane was as spacious as the service was exemplary. Between cat-naps, laughs, decent food, and great movies, time passed relatively quickly.

March 16th:
After a brief layover Saturday morning in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, our weary but excited group reached Madrid around 12:15pm local time, though it felt to us like 7:15am EST. Greeted by our driver, Jesús, we boarded a private bus and headed four hours north to our first stop: León.

Arriving to an unseasonably warm and perfectly sunny day, the Spanish countryside is lush green this time of year, reminiscent of Ireland. By 5:30pm we had finally reached the beautiful northern Spanish city of León and met our Camino de Santiago Guide, Bruno. Quickly we checked into our charming albergue, whose vista is of a two thousand year old Roman wall that puts the youth of American history into perspective. 

After dropping off our things in our rooms, we stretched our legs with a beautiful walk through Old León and picked up our official Pilgrim Passports. Tomorrow morning, we’ll get a proper guided tour of the city. Our reward for weathering a long day of travel with a great attitude came by way of a delicious three course dinner celebrated with a deserving toast and followed with our first evening meeting and reflection. Salud, buenas noches y Buen Camino.​​​​​​