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Spring Trips Offer More Than Just a Taste of Culture and History   

Immersion in the total experience — the people, the culture, the landmarks, the sights, the sounds, the aromas — is certainly an aspect of the International Education Programs (IEP) trips offered by the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies each year.   

You could say the students in the Model United Nations program were immersed in their surroundings during their spring-break IEP trip to Belgium, one of those places being the European Parliament Hemicycle in Brussels. They were so immersed that time flew.  A blog written by students and leaders on the trip offered a chance for reflection. 

“We were fortunate to have a very knowledgeable guide,” a student wrote in the blog. “As one would expect from a Model U.N. delegation, we asked LOTS of questions about the legislative process, the party system, the 24 official languages of the EU [European Union], the role of the president of the European Parliament, the branches of the EU, and so much more that three tours came and went during our session in the Hemicycle.”  

The students also climbed up the 272-foot Belfort Tower with its 366 steps.  “Pelicans among the pigeons atop the belfry,” a photo caption in the blog read. Among other things, they visited a World War I museum that provided history in context. “We were assigned a certain person and traveled through their lifetime,” according to the blog. 

After a few days — and some Belgium waffles, Belgium fries, and Belgium chocolate (including a workshop) — it was time for the Yale Model United Nations Europe conference, in which six students won awards. 

Junior Charlotte Furia, senior Michael Hoffman, and senior Nana Achiaa Donkor won Best Delegate awards. Honorable Mentions went to junior Leysana Masagutova and senior Katie Fullerton. A Best Position Paper award went to junior Katelyn Kim. 

Alvord Center trip Cuba 2024

From farms to street corners, everyone in Cuba was welcoming.

You also could say that the students who went on the spring-break IEP trip to Cuba and Miami, which focused on international relations and sustainable development, were immersed in all that was offered. And it started with the sounds of music. 

“The main thing that stood out to me on my first full day in Cuba was how friendly everyone was,” read a blog item from one of the students on the trip. “Everyone said hello and welcomed us with open arms into the rich culture that surrounds Cuban communities. One way I enjoyed seeing this community bonding was in the music being played at every corner of every street. The music truly followed us everywhere we went, with a live band at the art center, incredible vocalists who serenaded us in the square, and the echoing sounds of people playing their favorite music from their balconies.” 

A visit to a 20-acre organic farm — Finca Marta — outside of Havana was an opportunity to learn about sustainability and agroecology, which is defined as applying ecological principles to agricultural systems and practices. The farm supplies restaurants in Havana, and the students were treated to an assortment of snacks, including vegetables, cheese, honey, and hibiscus water. On another day they were treated to some great dance moves by an instructor who taught them various Cuban dance styles, including salsa, rumba, and casino. The last stop was on this IEP journey was back in the United States, where students explored the Cuban culture in Miami by going to a street festival and talking to people in the city, including an owner of a longtime store in Little Havana.   



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