Global Travel

We are called International for a reason. Every year, our High School students get to participate in unforgettable trips and exchanges all over the globe.

Each destination has a specific theme and focus—athletic, linguistic, or scientific—but all have a cultural and service learning dimension. These unforgettable experiences, inextricably shared and deeply personal, are full of transformative learning moments that truly embody our school’s mission and values. They provide extraordinary opportunities to enhance our students' globally-focused education outside the classroom and enrich their linguistic proficiency.

The trips abroad take place during the academic year and last about two weeks each. The Exchange and Travel program is updated every year.

2018-2019 Destinations

American South (Grades 9, 10, 11)


We will travel through the major sites of conflict and reconciliation in the American South, including Selma, Montgomery and Memphis, ending in New Orleans.  We will retrace the road taken by the Freedom Riders, walk in the path of marchers from Selma and examine the influence that groups such as the churches and the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1950s and 60s had in fueling changes in civil rights.

This will form a foundation on which to develop a conversation with Southern communities: African Americans, student peers and seniors who witnessed the conflicts. Meetings with today’s activists and political figures are also planned.  We will build an appreciation for differing perspectives of the American experience. What, for instance, is the implication of Confederate statues dotting the Southern landscape? In sum, we will arrive prepared to investigate significant themes and ideas and to ask important questions.

Our diligence will have its rewards too as we indulge in cultural discoveries such as music and regional food, particularly in New Orleans.   We will travel by van the first week to New Orleans, and whenever possible will stay in historically significant lodging or in youth hostels. A couple of exceptional senior students will help in the planning and mentoring of our dynamic group of 15 to 20 students.    And to underscore the essential communication quality of the journey, during the week of school, the team will report in daily with students in MPR5 at lunch.

 This is a trip for our time, offering substantial opportunities for engagement and learning and terrific camaraderie that will remain long after our return.

Cambodia & Vietnam (Grades 9, 10, 11)

For those passionate about reflecting deeply on history, social change and human resilience, this trip will explore the legacy of colonialism, war and genocide in two of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant, fast-changing countries: Cambodia and Vietnam. 

We’ll travel from bustling urban centers (Phnom-Penh, Ho Chi Minh City) to off-the-grid rural villages, including service work in Cambodia. We’ll visit ancient monuments (including the incredible temples of Angkor Wat) and contemporary ones, dedicated to understanding the Cambodian Genocide (the Killing Fields) and the Vietnam War (The War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels).

 In preparation, we’ll look at the legacy of war in our own country – connecting with immigrant communities, veterans, survivors, activists and historians. There will be particular attention to how arts & artists can help us to document, understand and digest the painful past and unfolding present.  We’ll look at war-related poetry, fiction, fine arts and film – from US artists and Southeast Asian artists. Trip participants will be invited to contribute to a related documentary theater project, with dramaturgical and historical material, journals and interviews.

This trip is highly recommended for 11th graders interested in these themes (and may be a springboard for extended essay or other IB work). It is also open to 10th graders. It has been designed to be appropriate also for some who travelled to Vietnam in 9th grade and now want to deepen that experience, and build on their own reflection on contemporary Southeast Asian history.

China & Tibet (Grades 9, 10, 11)

This incredible trip will be a unique opportunity for all, Chinese speakers or not, to discover the ancient wonders of Beijing, experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Tibet, do service in a Panda conservation center, and get immersed in Chinese culture and interact with high school students in Chengdu. To capture and enjoy every moment of this adventure, students will receive in-depth training in photography before and during the trip.

Colombia (Grades 9, 10, 11)

Discover this exotic country full of wonders by immersing yourself in projects related to the implications being in a “Post-Conflict Era”. We will go to the beautiful and historic cities of Bogotá and Cartagena where you will interact with peers from other schools and engage with young people in less fortunate neighbourhoods through an NGO.

We will have a fantastic adventure in the Amazon, in Marasha. where we will meet indigenous rainforest tribes and look into the development of eco-tourism.  We will finish our trip in Playa Blanca, visiting local business and where we will reflect on the contrast between the need for progression and the conservation efforts made by some communities.

Kyrgyzstan (Grades 9, 10, 11)

Kyrgyzstan, also known as the Kyrgyz Republic is, above all, mountainous. The Land of Forty Clans is a primarily rural nation with a fairly young population made up, as the nickname suggests, of a diverse set of ethnic groups. As a key juncture of the Silk Road, you will see an amazing array of influences. The nation’s rich history at the crossroads of the world, mean you’ll experience soviet history, Turkish religious traditions and Chinese culinary inspirations. This program will encourage a global perspective on issues from environmental conservation to various populations. Volunteer projects and interactions with current and former Peace Corps Volunteers will give the students a unique learning experience.

India (Grade 11)

The high school trip to India is one of our most celebrated traditions. This year, the plan is that 11th graders will get to discover the many faces of this fascinating nation. Traveling to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi, students will visit the Taj Mahal, temples, churches, mosques and the Buddha's place of meditation in Saarnath; they will do a workshop with a street theatre group, interact with puppeteers, animal conservationists, educators and social activists. They'll also go on an excursion on the Sambhal River to catch a glimpse of river dolphins and ghariyals (alligators indigenous to India) in their natural habitat, and interact with elephants in a shelter! Of course, students will also be giving back through community service for local youth.

Itinerary may be subject to change.

Panama (Grades 9, 10, 11)

The trip to Panama is a science and conservation focused trip where students will get the opportunity to conduct research and learn about the challenges facing this biodiversity hotspot and the people who live there. Students will work with local organizations and engage in current scientific  research by collecting data in the Mamoní Valley Preserve located two and half hours southeast of Panama City. Students will also explore the expansion of the Panama Canal, an important economic development for Panama, and the conservation challenges that come along with the expansion. They will better understand the balance between economic development and degradation on the environment. Lastly, students will meet and interact with indigenous and local communities to grasp the struggle between lifestyle, tradition and the desire to join the global economy. This trip is a truly well rounded visit that will leave the students with a deep understanding of how the country is working to conserve its natural habitats and endemic species while also developing economically. Although we will be focusing on Panama, this experience can lead to a deeper understanding of the challenges that are being faced in many other countries across the world as well.

Tahiti (Grades 9, 10)

Our longest standing exchange is now open to all—French and non-French speakers alike! Join us in Polynesia for two weeks of cultural immersion with host families. You'll sail and snorkel around some of the most majestic islands in the world, learn traditional dancing, and so much more. After, you'll have the opportunity to host your correspondent and share your life and city with your new friends from across the world.

Senegal (Grades 9, 10, 11)

The trip to Senegal is a unique opportunity for students to visit a country rich in history and culture, as well as experience a personal connection to our school’s long-standing service initiative, Project Senegal. The adventure will begin with a tour of bustling Dakar, followed by a visit to the beautiful Ile de Goree. The following week will be spent volunteering at a public school and working at an agricultural cooperative in the seaside town of M'bour. Students will also visit and volunteer at a nearby orphanage, visit local markets, take a dance lesson on the beach, and have the opportunity to converse and make friends with Senegalese peers studying English at a local high school.

South Africa (Grades 9, 10, 11)

The proposed trip to South Africa in April 2019 has the following objectives in mind for our students:

1.  Develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for peace and reconciliation efforts in South Africa post apartheid.

2.  Engage in cross-cultural exchanges with schools and organizations that develop understanding of collective memory and identity.

3.  Authentic and meaningful interactions with diverse community members while avoiding the preponderance of ‘neocolonial’ perspectives.

Participants develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for South African people, history, and culture that is deeply enriching. We look into the history of apartheid, examining both the international actions against the policies as well as how the system created economic imbalances within modern South Africa. We will partner with school and community groups in Port Elizabeth to make lasting connections and ensure a mutually beneficial exchange.


Maria Gonzalez
Global Travel Program Coordinator
Phone: 415.558.2077

International High School

150 Oak Street

San Francisco, CA 94102-5912

Phone: 415.558.2000

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An independent Pre-K through 12th grade co-educational day school in the heart of San Francisco. The school delivers a rigorous bilingual (French/English) immersion program through middle school, culminating in either French Baccalaureate or International Baccalaureate program in its International High School.

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