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Rondine – First Impressions

Benjamin Rufa. September 2016. “Rondine is an experience unlike any other. Having heard of Rondine and its prestigious nature, it can be inferred that those who lay their eyes upon the campus for the first time are welcomed with an eye-opening and interest-garnering sight. A campus housing a small classroom and several rustic buildings around it truly allow for a clash of styles — those of old and new. However, despite Rondine’s size and due to its unconventional nature, studies of great magnitude are allowed to flourish, and learning is no longer a chore.

Having arrived at Rondine, I was expecting a more conventional, refined campus and learning space. However, something akin to a normal school was not what was received. I was greeted and welcomed by an array of kind students whose personalities add to the eccentric, original nature in which the school possesses. Aided by the accomodating mentors who guide the students at Rondine, myself and my American compatriots nearly immediately became accustomed to the environment laid before us. Despite its unconventional appearance and laid back setting, I deemed it fitting and worthy of its highly esteemed reputation and equally unconventional teaching methods.

The methods of teaching in Rondine, as stated before numerous times, are quite original in the fact that they are not akin to the teaching seen in normal highschools. Instead of listening to mere lectures and taking notes, students at Rondine are lucky enough to be instructed by other methods, such as physical activities. For example, a few days prior to writing this, we, the students, had to devise a plan in a game to come up with a winning outcome while a victorious outcome was nigh impossible for each and every team. We were not only told, but experienced the moral of the lesson. Strengthening this, and perhaps the most interesting facet of Rondine, is the fact that people from around the world are brought to the classroom to display their plight through presentations, such as the presentations of Georgia and Abcasia, as well as Palestine. We are given first hand accounts and perspectives of those who have actually experienced the hardships that are occurring, not merely reading words off of paper. This is what, in my opinion, truly distinguishes the school from others aside from the obvious.

Rondine has been a delightful experience thus far. From its unconventional methods of teaching, to its eccentric environment, and immersive lessons, it distinguishes this school from others and will most definitely be memorable”.

4Gavin Tomlinson. 21 settembre 2016. “La mia prima settimana a Rondine era un’immersione non solo nella lingua, ma anche nel comprendere nuova gente e le nostre differenze. Il viaggio a Rondine, una scuola isolata fuori d’Arezzo, mi ha donato subito un’impressione di aristocrazia e importanza. Secondo me, i tesori più cari sono quelli che non si vedono facilmente. Appena arrivati siamo andati alla “scuolina” per cominciare le nostre lezioni. Io non ero nervoso. Mi sono sentito come se ero a casa mia. Gli studenti erano sinceri e i professori accoglienti. Il nostro primo esercizio è stato presentarci agli studenti del quarto anno. Poco a poco ogni cosa è sembrata più facile. Poi, quando noi abbiamo fatto “the scavenger hunt”, ho potuto imparare di più degli studenti e delle loro vite. Poi abbiamo ascoltato la storia di Rondine e i lavori della scuola nel passato. Durante il pranzo ho visto la comunità di Rondine e la gente che avrei incontrato più tardi. Durante le attività con Adam, Lucine e Lala, studenti internazionali di Rondine Cittadella della Pace, ho imparato tane cose nuove dei conflitti intorno al mondo e le differenze tra le loro culture. I momenti più importanti della giornata sono stati le presentazioni di Abkazia, Georgia e Palestina. Ho come si vive a Rondine e come si convive con i tuoi nemici durante la presentazione abkaziana. Il secondo giorno, Envera, il nostro tutor, ci ha donato un contesto per le nostre esperienze future. Questo contesto ha compreso una storia di Rondine e una discussione sulle nostre paure, aspettative e speranze. In questa conversazione abbiamo affrontato gli errori che facciamo comunemente. La nostra prima lezione era molto diversa rispetto alle nostre lezioni americane. Noam, il tutor di classe del Quarto Anno, ha fatto la lezione un mix di coinvolgimento personale e discussione aperta. Noam ci ha insegnato a tratte il massimo dall’esperienza dell’insegnamento a scuola. L’attività era collegata al concetto di imparare dagli altri, come la peer education. Il giorno si è chiuso con una presentazione della Studentessa di Rondine, Mary: con lei abbiamo approfondito la storia e cultura del Medio Oriente. Mary ci ha introdotto ai conflitti di quella terra. Questi primi giorni dello scambio sono trascorsi in attività di presentazione di ogni Paese del Mondo rappresentato dagli studenti internazionali a Rondine. Abbiamo scoperto luoghi, stili di vita e nuovi metodi di conoscenza. Rondine mi ha fatto una buona impressione perché la scuola è all’avanguardia e attiva nell’affrontare dei conflitti. Io spero che io posso fare una buona impressione a Rondine nello stesso modo che la scuola mi ha fatto una buona impressione. Grazie a tutti”.

Nikki D’Annunzio. 9 September 2016. “My name is Nikki D’Annunzio. I am seventeen years old and I am a senior at Thornton-Donovan School, an international school in New York. I have attended Thornton-Donovan for thirteen years, and this is my final year. Thornton-Donovan is a special school; as an international school, it focuses on educating students about several different countries and provides the opportunity to visit them. I have had the pleasure to study and visit several different places, such as Italy, Cuba, and even Japan. Every excursion I embarked on changed my life in a positive way, and I’m very grateful that I have been granted this opportunity.

On July 4th, 2016, I was very surprised to receive a call from my headmaster, who told me that I and four other students of Thornton-Donovan had been selected to live and study in Italy for a hefty six weeks. I was told that I was to represent T-D and study at one of our prestigious sister schools, Rondine Cittadella Della Pace.  At first, I was intimidated by the length of my trip; I have never lived in a different country, nor stay in one for more than two weeks. Though I was initially anxious, the concept of studying at one of T-D’s sister schools, especially since it is dubbed as the “town of peace,” was truly compelling. Before I knew it, I began counting the days until my departure.

I did not know much about Rondine until I met four of their students at my school. These students were selected to represent Rondine in our student exchange program, and happily greeted us upon their arrival. They spoke with eloquence and an impressive amount of English, despite it not being their first language. By only speaking with them, I knew that Rondine was truly a special place.

 On my first day of school at Rondine, I was greeted by twenty-four enthusiastic smiles and several handshakes. The friendly people whom I had just met were the Rondinelle, a group of younger students at Rondine. Like their classmates in New York, they spoke English with poise and proficience. Together, we rode a small bus and arrived at the “town of peace.” My classmates and I were introduced to the kind teachers and thrown right into their school lessons.

Rondine’s curriculum is truly special. It blends standard education with foreign affairs, a technique that Thornton-Donovan utilizes as well. I have only been at Rondine for three days, yet  I learned about several countries and cultures that I had never heard of. I was able to hear foreigner’s testimonies about conflicts that America does not pay attention to. I have learned more about conflicts and peace during these past two days then I have my entire life.

I look forward to my stay at Rondine. Because of this opportunity, I truly believe that the best is yet to come”.

Rayaan Ba. 15 September 2016.“My first impression of Rondine was a jumble of new names and questions about myself. I’ve frequented 5 schools and the major difference here was that the small, tight-knit class seemed genuinely open and wanted to welcome us exchange students into their world. Almost immediately, the informality of the school struck me. The classroom was moderated more like a large discussion rather than lectures. I didn’t feel like I was being lectured or nervous about the class, instead it felt like I was having a conversation with my friends. Having been raised in the American system, I was wary of how this would work, but the students are much more participative and understand the topic much more than just taking notes. Even though the classes were in Italian, I was compelled to contribute instead of passively experiencing the school.

Then came the first of the cultural presentations. Whereas most presentations involve hearing about a country from a perspective with a quick overview of some aspects of the culture, Rondine brought students from those countries to have us experience a specific skill or aspect of life from their homes. I learned words in Azeri, traditional Palestinian dances, and the Armenian alphabet. Instead of just knowing random facts, I had actionable experience about them. I gained a sense that Rondine focuses a lot on being able to go out and make achange with what’s learned here. I felt that I learned more about the cultural fabric & day-to-day life in those countries from these experiences.

Classes at Rondine are much more topical than American high schools. Instead of only teaching core subjects, classes such as Technical Design and Psychology are offered, giving students a chance to explore real-world career choices. In addition to this, peace-focused classes like Conflict Resolution are taught. I took one and found it to be useful in analyzing not just larger scale problems, but the ones we encounter in our everyday lives. This is a great addition to the curriculum for younger students, showing them how to resolve conflicts in a structured way.

We spent a day exploring Arezzo with the students, giving me a chance to connect with the students and Arezzo itself. Seeing the history of the city where the school was founded & just living a normal day out made me feel much more comfortable with the exchange. At first I was nervous about the concept of 6 weeks in Italy, but the warm homely environment changed that quickly.

I then spent a day learning about the history and reasons behind the making of the school. Seeing the story leading up to the school helped root it in reality, giving the organization a value beyond just existing. Most schools just exist as constant parts of a system, but Rondine has a very interesting story behind its formation.

All these experiences helped hook me into the daily life at Rondine, notwithstanding the initial culture shock. I am excited to learn more about and from Rondine and I hope that I leave with a better understanding of the world than I came here with”.



Rondine – Last Impressions

Benjamin Rufa. November 2016.”From when the first of these two assignments was written, my views of Rondine’s program haven’t substantially differentiated. Rondine is a school unlike any other- a school that promotes peace and well-rounded views not just by textbook, but by activities, programs, and individuals from warring nations providing lectures. While other schools may promote peace, it can most assuredly be said that Rondine is superior due to the fact it is enjoyable to be educated in such a manner. Nevertheless, such was stated in the prior assignment.

What has changed is my perception of the people. While I had originally known the mentors and students to be well-educated and caring individuals, I hadn’t expected to see such compassion sprung from them. When another classmate is in need, they are quick to offer their compassion and a shoulder to rest upon, and I witnessed such first hand when one of our American compatriots was sullen on more than one occasion. The same can be stated for the mentors, who performed more than their job in aiding us in making us feel comfortable and accustomed to Italy, its people, and culture.

Another distinguishable aspect of Rondine is its hosting of classes that consist of conflict resolution, religion, and courses focusing upon otherwise unfocused nations pitted in conflict against each other. Examples that can be readily drawn are the Abcasian and Georgian conflicts, that of Palestine and Israel, as well as Kosovo. Alongside this, the teaching of religions and their principles aids in broadening the minds of students. In turn, this aids in eliminating the believing of falsities and stereotypes. All of such, as stated before, broadens the minds of students, making them more understanding and in tune with their worldly surroundings.

In closing, Rondine is an experience unlike any other. A school in which effectively crossbreeds entertainment and schoolwork whilst provoking students into greater thought with its programs that broaden their minds. Such an experience will never be forgotten, and has surely left an imprint upon my life.

Gavin Tomlinson. October 2016. “Over the past six weeks, we have done so many activities and exercises that involved group discussion, group participation, and individual expression. The majority of our education at Rondine took place in the classroom, and Conflict Resolution class was an important part of our in school work.The method of both teaching and interacting greatly from the classes at home. I learned more about the subject when Noam gave a brief lecture that led into an open discussion of personal ideas and experiences, which all contributed to the class study. In my opinion, the engaging conversation in an open forum brought forth richer learning experiences and memories than just a simple explanation and memorization. I felt this way also with Envera’s human rights presentation, in which students discussed human rights and the directives most valuable to them. The strangest part of my education at Rondine was religion class. I understood almost everything that was spoken about, maybe the most out of all my classes.The best part of religion came from our discussion of the origins and beginnings of the religion and its ideology. In this way, I related the religions more clearly, but also, I understood their deviations and uniqueness just as well too. The second biggest part of my Rondine experience was the student presentations. I learned more about the dynamics of conflicts and war from the presentations from the international students. In a way, I used these presentations to think about my own conflict resolution methods based on the class we had. Above all, these presentations showed me, an American boy, that the remainder of the world is not that far behind. Shamefully, I was surprised to see how modern many of these countries that had thought little about were. The presentations showcased a new perspective on events that I had known little, to nothing, about. Our own personal presentations gave the American students a platform to present ourselves and our view on conflicts important to us. The presentations on American culture and American history seemed to be beneficial to everyone at Rondine. Learning and teaching in a setting where everyone’s minds are new to the subject made the presentation process just as beneficial for us as everyone else. These presentations helped to strengthen our own methods of forming opinions and idea-sharing. To me, the personal presentations aided our confidence to contribute in other classes and areas of discussion. Through our course at Rondine, we have done small researches for an interview project based on examining cultural differences. This assignment varied greatly from American work. We had to make our own observations, our own questions, and we had to find our own answers. It was interesting seeing people struggle with certain questions, because I could see that these questions or ideas are not completely understood in Italy like in the United States. The last classroom activity on my list is the Percorso:Ulisses lecture. This was my first ever human science class. Aside from the curriculum varying from what I normally expected, the Percorso: Ulisses delved into human behaviour from a scientific, religious, and historical perspective. The best part of this class was the morning we all identified a concept most important to us. We had to explain our choices and remember everyone else’s. Outside of classes, in a literal sense, we had two trekking trips and the Aboca trip. Usually, I understand a field trip as a guided tour, but all three of these trips had student involvement, dialogue, and just overall relationship bonding (especially on the treks). From Rondine, I have gained experience in facing and understanding the world and people around me. Progress is best achieved through collaborative efforts, and this can only begin when we decide to open up our minds to understand each other. The only bad part about my time at Rondine is that everyone there has been so kind and so approachable. I am going to miss everyone so very much, starting with Noam and Envera, our two mentors from start to end. After them, our Quarto Anno friends and the other international students follow. I hate that we will have to leave such a wonderful institution, community, and family. The greatest thing that I will take from Rondine must be my new appreciation for immersive learning. I think the best way to discover a topic and completely understand it is to put yourself in relating situations. Rondine allows me to do this with the assigned projects, student interactive classes, and various extra-classroom activities. I am happy to be here 6 more weeks longer, and I hope that I can continue to meet Rondine’s expectations as an exchange student”.

Nikki D’Annunzio. October 17 2016.”My name is Nikki D’Annunzio. I am seventeen years old and I am a senior at Thornton-Donovan School, an international school in New York. I was presented the opportunity  to stay in Italy and to study at Rondine Cittadella della Pace for six weeks. At first, I did not know what studying at Rondine would be like. I assumed that, since it was one of Thornton-Donovan’s sister schools, it was bound to be special; however, I did not know how unique Rondine is. This was until I met four of their alumni at Thornton-Donovan. They were students in Rondine’s youngest class, Quarto Anno Rondine. As they spoke to me (in perfect English, might I add) about their multiple educational experiences and achievements, I began to picture how intricate Rondine was.
I am astonished by Rondine’s curriculum. Like Thornton-Donovan, Rondine teaches its students about several different places around the world along with standard classes. I did not know any other schools that were as globally-engaged as Thornton-Donovan; that is, until I was able to study at Rondine. By my second day in Quarto Anno Rondine, I had already learned about three countries and two conflicts that I didn’t know existed. I was also impressed by Rondine’s integration of multicultural education in standard classes. For example, the students in Rondine’s English class were able to learn about American Civil Rights while also studying the language. I believe that this approach is very progressive and should be mimicked in other schools. In addition to aiding students in understanding different cultures, Rondine also offers classes that help one understand the self. I was able to take two very enlightening classes; one focused on conflict resolution, the other focused on intrapersonal matters and decision-making. I believe that these courses are very useful; as understanding oneself helps students understand others more easily. Through a few of these classes, I was able to learn a little about myself. I believe that Rondine’s acceptance of uncensorship and encouragement of engagement is important. In Quarto Anno Rondine, I was able to listen and partake in several discussions, some controversial and some not. Rondine prompts its students to speak their mind, no matter how contentious their thoughts. I believe that Rondine’s lack of censorship is important; openness is one of the precursors to achieving peace, which is Rondine’s unvarnished goal. To me, the most important part of the “village of peace” is the people who inhabit it. In my thirteen years of attending school, I have never met a group of people who have exhibited as much warmth and kindness as the Rondinese. During my stay, I never felt uncomfortable or unwelcomed. The teachers strove to help us understand and our tutors could not have been any kinder. All of my classmates became my friends, and I am upset to leave them. The strength of the bonds that I have formed in such a short time has astonished me. I believe that the Rondinese and Rondine will truly change the world’s perspective on international education and hopefully make the world a better place. I am so grateful to have been able to be study at Rondine and I believe that this experience will positively influence me,
wherever I may find myself”.

17.10.16 Rayaan Ba. “I started at Rondine 6 weeks ago completely out of my element. Everything moved so fast and there was so much information to remember. Now, I feel comfortable at the school and in classes. Most days, we have normal high school classes in the mornings and specialized classes in the afternoon. Normal classes seem to focus on the classical. For example, in our math class, we learned about content that I’d already learned in America, but in a completely different way. Whereas I learned an intuitive method,  Italian class went through the more difficult,  but more generally accepted steps. A special favorite class of mine is Religion.  We learn about a topic that lends itself easily to bias and controversy in an impartial way. The class covers not only the historical,  but the ideological as well, which gives insight to the inner workings of a belief. This is combined with the multiculturalism of Rondine and trips around Italy to give a full understanding of a religion and group. Afternoon classes are focused either on conflict resolution or on cultural presentations. Conflict resolution classes were important to me because they weren’t just taught as lectures or giving a set of techniques to resolve conflict and leaving it at that. Instead we analyzed different types of conflict and were much more engaged in the class. A specific exercise that I think affected me deeply had us talk about our problems or worries to a group, and the group would paraphrase what we said back to us. I ended up thinking out loud and pouring out many problems I’d kept inside, and hearing them from an impartial perspective helped gain some focus on my goals later in life. The cultural presentations helped me learn much more about the Caucasus and. Balkan region especially. I’d learned a little bit about the Middle East before,  but in America, the Caucasus and Balkans are mostly overlooked. Seeing these countries from the perspective of a native helped me understand the importance of national identity. Many of the countries we heard about were fighting for independence, and where I’ve never personally felt much of a national attachment, learning about the history and the reasons behind this helped me understand much more about the region. The last major part of our exchange were the trips throughout Italy. We went to Cortona, Siena, Pompeii, Naples, and Sansepolcro. Rondines QAR program is an alternative to study abroad, and I think that the trips throughout Italy are a great way to teach students about their countries in a way they may not have had the chance to. Personally, the major differences between cities helped me understand the regional identity in Italy, which was a concept I didn’t fully understand when I arrived here. All in all,  the experience was amazing, it helped me grow as a person as well as a student,  and I hope I can stay longer or at least continue on the path this trip has set me on”.