Of the 35 Monroe County high school students that participated this year in the Experiment for International Living, 15 of them gathered Thursday night to discuss how their experiences abroad colored their worldview.
Over the summer the students dispersed across the globe for three-week home stays with local families who guided them through full cultural immersion.
Alli Griffiths of Key West High School spent part of her summer in Tanzania, a largely Muslim country in East Africa with a parliamentary government.
She and her family would get up at 4 a.m. everyday to begin a constant rotation of chores.
The whole day is about sustaining life, she said. They dont have any free time.
Wil Richardson recalled having a traditional BBQ with his host family in Korea.
They were eating marshmallows. I took one of the skewers for meat, put a marshmallow on it and started to cook it. They had no idea what was going on.
John Lucas, EILs senior vice president for academic programs, said participation in Monroe County has been so robust second only to the New York City public school system that hes applying the Keys model around the country.
He said the local success is a function of recruitment through Take Stock in Children, an academic mentoring program that if successfully completed provides students with a full scholarship to a Florida college or university.
Since the program started in the Keys in 2006, 104 Monroe County students have participated. This year's group will raise that number to 139.
Other destinations for the Keys group included Thailand, France, Spain, Japan, Mongolia, Costa Rica and South Africa.