How Brewster Leads the Way for Global Education

How Brewster Leads the Way for Global Education
Kara McDuffee

Recently Brewster has expanded its longstanding commitment to global learning in significant and exciting ways. With increasing travel options for students and a new campus in Madrid, Spain, the opportunities for students to immerse themselves in other cultures are having an enormous impact on their educational experience. Meanwhile, in Wolfeboro, faculty and school leaders are carving pathways to support this growth and develop global citizenship in and out of the classroom.


It takes Paulina Trott ’24 more than 10 hours to get from her home in Antigua, Guatemala to Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro. She makes the trip at least five times a year—every year—and has done so since her sophomore year. 

All of that packing, hauling luggage, and arranging transportation sounds pretty daunting, especially for anyone who attended high school in their hometown. Some might call it downright exhausting! 

And yet—when presented with an opportunity to add a trip to Madrid, Spain during her senior spring—Paulina jumped at the chance. In mid April, she and a small group of seniors headed to Spain for a week (a trip inspired by Maggie Doyle '24) to experience Brewster’s Madrid campus and explore the historical city’s attractions, and gain the unique insights that come from staying with a local Spanish family each night. While the students put their Brewster classes on pause for this short trip, Paulina had to be proactive in staying on top of her four AP courses, including AP Research class and its year-long research project.

When you learn about Paulina’s research topic, however, her choice to travel won’t be surprising. 


Benefits of International Travel for High School Students

Paulina’s AP research is driven by the desire to look more closely at the benefits of international travel for high school students. If Paulina’s travel experience inspired her research topic (she’s been to more than eight countries in the past three years), her growth from the experiences is what solidified it. 

“My travels have allowed me to foster a deep appreciation for different ways of thinking,” Paulina said. “I have been able to learn and explore so much, which has made me a more open-minded person.”

Paulina (left) representing her club "Save the Children" at the Student Club & Activities fair.

There are a lot of studies showing how immersive experiences in other cultures can help influence an individual’s mindset, but the majority are pointed toward college-aged travelers. To address some of these gaps, Paulina surveyed 115 high school students and conducted a series of in-depth interviews with a select group.

While she won’t present her research and finish her 15-pages-long-and-counting AP paper until later in April, Paulina broke down the major takeaways of her findings for us. High school students’ global travel experiences have transformative impacts on their development and outlook. These culturally immersive experiences can shape an individual’s mindset and sense of self, open a broader worldview, promote resilience, foster cultural humility, enhance language learning, and deepen cultural understanding.

“Through my research, I discovered that these immersive experiences significantly shape individuals’ mindsets, concepts of self, and identities,” Paulina said. She cites the crucial role of age in her study, as well, because adolescence is when people experience significant personal development. 


A graphic from Paulina's research paper and presentation.

Paulina will also dedicate a section of her paper to her personal experiences studying abroad at Brewster, a choice inspired in part because her uncle attended Brewster 50 years ago. “It’s been a long journey that has taught me so much about myself and others,” she said. “During my time here, I’ve been able to shape my identity and define who I am and what I want.”

At Brewster, Paulina is one of Brewster’s many international students. The student body represents 24 countries (and 24 U.S. states), all choosing to reap the benefits of learning in a different environment. Benefits that now can be experienced by both international and domestic students.


Creating a Culture of Travel

Day student Jack O’Neil ’25’s first time traveling  outside of the United States came during his freshman year at Brewster. Jack, along with 30 other students, took part in Brewster’s 9th Grade Experience in Cádiz, Spain—a richly packed 11-day trip that included learning at an international school and living with a local family. 

Photos from the 2022 Cádiz trip.

“My freshman year I went on the Cádiz trip and I loved it. I loved immersing myself into another culture and another language,” Jack said. “I found it so interesting that I couldn’t wait to find another way to get back to Spain and experience it again.”

Since its inception four years ago, the Cádiz experience has cemented itself in the 9th grade Brewster experience. The immersive program—designed to introduce foreign travel to Brewster students— places the travelers on Spain’s southern shore in the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. With an experience focused on history, culture, and language, and filled with trips around the south of Spain, it has  become a highlight for many Brewster students.

Spanish teacher and trip chaperone Cailey Mastrangelo credits part of this impact to the fact that the students get to experience it together. “You see them start to form new bonds and gain new confidence throughout the trip,” she said. “Being together, the students start to encourage each other. They might start out timid, but they definitely are a lot more adventurous by the end of the trip.”

The 2022 Brewster group in front of the Escuela K2 school.

Fortunately, as these students get older and other students join Brewster after their freshman year there are more exciting travel opportunities for everyone to feed their sense of adventure. 

In fact, Jack, now a junior, is taking advantage of one right now.


Exploring Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela looks a bit different from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. The city in northern Spain’s Galicia region sounds a bit different, too, especially for the Brewster students studying abroad there. Throughout the day, they hear the sounds of travelers from all over the world cheering as they finish the famous Camino de Santiago and reach the Santiago Cathedral, which sits less than 100 feet from the Monastery where our students live.

Brewster students standing in front of the Monastery on the 2023 Santiago study abroad experience.

Learning about the significance of the Cathedral and the constant flow of people has been one of Jack’s favorite experiences thus far in Santiago. But it’s just one of the ways his perspective has broadened. 

“I’ve learned more about the Spanish culture, but even more importantly, I learned what it was like to be a foreigner to a country and language,”Jack said. “At Brewster there are so many people from all around the world, and this trip has allowed me to better understand what they go through when traveling and staying in a very different country. It’s also helped me learn how to be more independent and responsible.”

The students in Santiago maintain their Brewster academic course load through a collaboration between Brewster teachers and the local teachers. Team Leader and long-term faculty member Laura Cooper serves as the dorm parent and advisor for the group. She also accompanies the many trips that take place on Wednesdays and on the weekends to historical landmarks, cultural hotspots, and Brewster Madrid. 

Trip participant Caitlin Cliche ’24 says her favorite experience was visiting Ribeira Sacra, a region known for its breathtaking scenery and landscapes. “It made me look at the environment that surrounded me in a different light,” she said. “It was truly a beautiful and eye-opening place.”

Brewster students taking in the views of of the Parada de Sil in Ribeira Sacra.

When deciding to go on the trip, Caitlin had to weigh the impact of leaving campus for six weeks. She would have to miss part of her spring crew season, forgo the opportunity to sing at the April Coffee House, and be okay with time away from many of her friends. These are examples of the factors and fears that every student must balance when deciding to study abroad.

For Caitlin, the influence of her late grandmother—who visited Spain when Caitlin was young and brought back stories and souvenirs for her granddaughter—is what ultimately helped her decide to go. For Jack, his desire to get back to Spain outweighed his concern for missing time in Wolfeboro. When they return to campus in a few weeks, they’ll spread the news to other students: It was worth it.

As Brewster’s global education programs grow, students will see international travel while in high school as a rite of passage for Bobcats. This includes the chance to study abroad at Brewster Madrid. 


Exchange Programs with Madrid

Seven years ago, the vision for opening international Brewster campuses was an aspiration, not yet fully formed. Fast forward to today, when intense and thoughtful planning has transformed that vision into a reality. Brewster Academy International, or BAI, has launched, and Brewster Madrid is well into its first year as a K-12 school in Madrid, Spain with 152 students and 42 teachers. Several Brewster Wolfeboro personnel have moved their lives and work to Brewster Madrid, taking with them decades of experience with the Brewster Model and team-based approach. Still more Brewster faculty and staff have traveled to Madrid, contributed to meetings, and helped create shared structures between the two campuses.

It’s no wonder the theme for Brewster this year is “unity,” which Head of School Kristy Kerin introduced at the first All-School of the year. “At its core, unity is an expression of sharing,” she said. “It is the result of a group of people coming together around shared values and mission, and being aligned in a common goal.” 

This alignment is ripe for student exchanges. Already this year, there have been 16 exchange students from Madrid on Wolfeboro’s campus. For six weeks in the winter, six Madrid juniors stayed in Brewster dorms, joined classes and advisories, participated in afternoon activities and sports, and competed in Winter Carnival—in other words, embraced life as a boarding school student. This spring, 10 new juniors joined the Wolfeboro Brewster community.

Photos of the exchange students from Brewster Madrid immersing themselves in campus life in Wolfeboro.

Mateo Niembro Porto ’24 was one of the winter exchange students. Despite being nervous due to some previous not-so-great study abroad experiences, Mateo quickly realized he had nothing to be scared about. “After my first week at Brewster, I had already made tons of friends. Studying abroad here helped me realize how social I am,” he said. “It also helped me develop a sense of self-dependence that I didn’t have back home. Now I realize I can rely on myself for many things than I thought.”

This theme of developing independence at Brewster isn’t a new one, but it certainly has an added layer of growth when it comes to living abroad. And this exchange program will officially become two-directional in the 2024-25 school year as Brewster students are given the opportunity to spend time living in the city of Madrid while attending classes at Brewster’s second campus. 

The organization of these exchange programs isn’t easy. Schedules need to be streamlined and support systems need to be built out so the students don’t experience any gaps in their learning. However, Brewster administrators know it’s worth it. 

They also understand that an internal expansion of globally minded learning must go hand-in-hand with external expansion.


Developing Global Competencies in Wolfeboro

“Global competency” refers to the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that we need to thrive in an ever-more-connected and complex world.

Brewster’s Dean of Teaching and Learning and Educational Research, Dr. Marta Filip-Fouser, helps lead the charge in creating an academic setting that reinforces Brewster’s globally minded vision. She is well-versed in building global competencies, having completed  extensive research on the topic for her dissertation and other articles, not to mention her rich background in teaching and school leadership. 

“I think it is always great for a young person to step out of what is comfortable and known into new environments. The unknown and the slight discomfort is really beneficial for exploring, learning, and problem-solving,” Dr. Filip-Fouser said. “Ultimately, it is about building connections with people from other places and cultures and seeing the world beyond our own frames.”

She understands that travel opportunities need to be coupled with multicultural curriculums, intentional pedagogy, and a wide choice of courses to build students’ global competencies in and out of the classroom. This is why she is continuously offering professional development opportunities to faculty, both on campus and at conferences. 

Left:Steven Davis and Dr. Marta Filip-Fouser at the GEBG Conference. Right: An excerpt from their article.

One such conference took place in the spring of 2024 when six faculty traveled to Montreal, Canada to attend the Global Educators Conference, led by the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG). Two of the conference attendees, Dr. Filip-Fouser and Steven Davis, the World Languages Department Chair, have just been published in the GEBG magazine for their article “Co-Designing: a New Story of Global Learning with Students." The piece focuses on their work with Brewster's Global Scholars Program as they strive to provide environments and structures for open dialogue, engaged listening, and growth.

The Global Scholars Program is a cohort-based structure at Brewster that gives students an opportunity to pursue a path of study focused on global citizenship. The program contains  specific course prerequisites, biweekly meetings, and travel requirements, which includes tailored Interim Studies trips that focus on different global issues.


Left: The 2023 Global Scholars trip in NYC. Right: The 2024 Global Scholars trip in Washington, D.C.

Developing a global outlook, however, isn’t just reserved for students in the Global Scholars Program. Every student at Brewster is challenged in their classes to better understand the complex world and their ability to make a difference in it. They’re exposed to a variety of multicultural content, particularly in their history and English classes, and students in the World Language classrooms cultivate an appreciation for different cultures and perspectives of the languages being studied.

As Brewster’s global opportunities for students increase, they’ll be challenged to build on those lessons abroad.


A Commitment to Global Education 

Brewster leaders have been in conversations with Katie Thornton ’01, who runs a French immersion program, to launch a trip for Brewster students to the south of France. Meanwhile, in Spain, Brewster Madrid will soon be joined by a second campus in La Moraleja, just outside of the city center. As both schools grow in size in the coming years, so will the exchange opportunities for students and faculty. 

Where will Brewster carry its mission after that? In the past, this question may have sounded like a passing muse. Now, it’s loaded with possibility and promise. 

In keeping with Brewster’s values, the importance of accessibility and financial aid is a continual point of focus for the strategy team members. All of this is done in an effort to serve Brewster’s vision: an approach to learning that has the exponential power to transform education, communities, and the lives of students in our care. 

As the world Brewster students will inherit becomes more interdependent and globalized, developing global competencies in our students should be at the forefront of their education. Cultural immersion, language development, and the exchanging of ideas need to be pillars of a high school education, and international travel shouldn’t just be reserved for college-aged students. 

Which draws a straight line back to Paulina’s research and the personal goal she had as a  14-year-old applying to Brewster: “Studying abroad will prepare me for the future.” 

The findings are in. She was right.