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High School Students Tackle Foreign Affairs

Teens study international relations and other cultures through summer programs and school events.

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For two weeks this summer, a team will meet at Yale University to discuss U.S. foreign affairs, work together during a simulation of an international crisis, and travel to New York to visit the United Nations and Council on Foreign Relations. Although this may seem like the schedule of politicians or ambassadors, this team will comprise high school students—sophomores, juniors, and seniors participating in the EXPLO Foreign Affairs program, run by the nonprofit EXPLO, in partnership with Foreign Affairs magazine.

EXPLO hosts academic enrichment programs each year, but this summer's program is the first to focus entirely on global issues. The curriculum, developed by Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose, includes discussions led by members of the magazine's staff about the history of international relations and current American foreign policy issues, in addition to the simulation and New York trip. The admissions process for the EXPLO program is selective, according to its website, and the application is complex to ensure that students who really want to learn about global issues attend.

Moira Kelly, executive director of EXPLO, says some of the issues that students will discuss, such as emerging democracies, revolutions, renewable energy, and the fate of the euro, will show students that the United States does not work in isolation.

"What happens in Europe, South America, Africa, [and] Asia has bearing on what goes on in the United States, in terms of the economy, business, politics, [and] wars," she says. "What happens on another continent is not divorced from a typical American's life."

[Read about funding cuts to foreign language classes.]

And while not every student can make the two-week trip to Yale or has access to clubs such as Model U.N., some learn about global topics in their high school auditorium.

Yesterday, students at Appleton West High School in Wisconsin began Global Awareness Week, which focuses less than EXPLO on the policy side, and more on simply learning about other parts of the world.

Global Awareness Week "gives kids the opportunity to see and hear about places they may never go to, so they have ideas of ... what life is like in other places, and for [students] to be more empathetic to other ways of living," says Tracy Sturtevant, an Appleton West Spanish teacher who helped organize the week with the school's foreign language department.

The celebration this year includes many speakers who are current and former Appleton West students, including those who have traveled to Costa Rica and Haiti, international students from Russia and India, as well as the school's Hmong Club, which will share the culture of the mountainous region in Southeast Asia.

[Learn what college students should know about studying abroad.]

Sturtevant says students are always buzzing about and looking forward to Global Awareness Week, which has been an annual event at Appleton West for about two decades. High school students are at great ages to learn about global issues, Sturtevant says, because they're used to learning a variety of information and spending much of their day listening to and taking in new ideas.

Kelly agrees that the teenage students at the many EXPLO programs are ready to become globally aware.

"I think they're pretty ripe for learning about how things happen in other parts of the world."

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