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Beyond the Border: A Local Trip of Global Proportion

A hallmark of global engagement at Pacific Ridge School is our students’ direct interaction with cultures and communities outside of our own. Its successful application can be measured by the extent to which they learn more about a new culture and community and the extent to which they learn more about our own culture and community as a result. The most important aspect of these experiences for young people is what they learn about themselves.

Global engagement can happen anywhere in the world. It's as much about whatwe do in these experiences as where we do them. The far-reaching global travel programs that mark the end of the school year at Pacific Ridge provide robust and thought-provoking journeys, but similarly enlightening journeys can be found closer to home.
One such journey took place in mid-October when eleven students and four teachers from Pacific Ridge spent a day at Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS), a high school in Tijuana. Less than an hour from Carlsbad, we had the opportunity to expose our students to the culture of a country close to the U.S., but with a historical, cultural, social, and linguistic background as different as those of countries thousands of miles away.
The main purpose of our visit to Tijuana was to bring students from both sides of the border together and provide a forum for conversation and sharing. The Pacific Ridge students were paired with students from CETYS, attended classes, shared a mid-morning meal and participated in small group sessions, all while speaking exclusively in Spanish.
CETYS is the only WASC-accredited school in Mexico; it also features an International Baccalaureate program and a service-based, co-curricular emphasis. CETYS students have skills and ambitions similar to those of Pacific Ridge students, but their global vantage is decidedly unique from ours. This balance of familiarity and difference helps cast our respective cultural viewpoints in clear relief, making for lively engagement among the students.
The experience also included a visit to the border wall in Playas de Tijuana, where there are actually three walls separating our countries in several places. Students came to very real terms with what a border means to the people living on either side. Some spent several moments reflecting on anecdotal inscriptions on the fence, while others even reached through the bars and grasped some "U.S. sand" just to see what the idea felt like.    
We were accompanied to the border by the CETYS students, as well as local Tijuana teacher Pepe Falcón. Señor Falcón will be co-leading the Pacific Ridge global travel program to Tijuana with Mr. Burman this May. It was compelling to see our students reflect on and engage in conversations about immigration, crime, and social pressures with the Tijuana teachers and students all while sitting next to a 12-foot-high wall constructed to keep people apart.
We hope that our continued relationship with CETYS will lead to interesting opportunities for teacher/class collaborations. Pedro Afán’s Spanish 5 class, for example, has been communicating via Skype with an English class at CETYS. These kinds of mutually beneficial experiences enlarge the scope of cross-cultural understanding for all.
Pedro Afán, World Languages