From South Africa and Scotland: Three exchange students find home in Hackley

Casten and language trips span the globe as students immerse in new cultures and learn new languages.


Credit: Lei Anne Rabeje

Jodi Dovale and Babsi Vabaza hang out with other boarders at night.

By Pat Walker, Sports Editor

Have you ever been interested in doing an exchange? Or wondered what it’s like for others to be subject to a new culture in the U.S.? The Round Square program offers students from all over the world the opportunity to immerse themselves in New York’s environment and culture.

South African exchange students like Jodi Dovale and Babsi Vabaza and Scottish student Eden Ferguson have all been a part of this life changing experience. “We have always wanted to visit New York and we have always wanted to go on exchange, the campus looked beautiful, so Hackley was a perfect fit for us,”Jodi said. Having never witnessed urban or suburban life in the US, you can imagine how each of them felt when they first entered the campus. Students often take for granted the hilltop’s stunning, college-like exterior with new renovations constantly in form along with its welcoming and diverse community.

Jodi and Babsi come from Dainfern, a well developed area in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dainfern is part of a very beautiful country with a very long coastline filled with a variety of marine life. Home to eleven languages, South Africa has a diverse culture similar to New York, minus the “abundance of yellow taxis”, the girls exclaimed. The two have loved the spirit and unity of Hackley’s environment most out of all factors which Dainfern College is so accustomed to showing. Similarly to Eden, Hackley has been a “cold, but wonderful experience” for the two girls.

Eden especially wanted to come to New York, and Hackley’s Round Square association made it possible. A “much more fun” and “less stressful” school than his own in Edinburgh, Scotland, he has found Hackley to be academically focused but also relaxed at the same time. Eden has also loved the ability to go to his host’s house Fletcher Levin on the weekends where he can feast on the American cereal he is so fond of. Although academically very different from other types of schools in the area and what the three are accustomed to, Hackley has nevertheless allowed them to achieve the ultimate goal to witness another culture and meet a new group of friendly, outgoing students and faculty.

Round Square is a worldwide association that offers a shared commitment valuing personal development and responsibility at a similar level to academic excellence. For Eden, Jodi, and Babsi, this ability to fully engage themselves in a new culture and get a feel for New York’s environment and academics was exactly their goal. Under this program, students are given the chance to discover new parts of the world by traveling to American and international partner schools.

The basis of Round Square schools are founded on the ideals internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership, and service. Hackley’s location in Tarrytown, NY just outside the city was the type of enticing, welcoming environment these three students were looking for in northeastern areas of the United States. Any students wishing to do an exchange should visit Hackley’s website and see the complete list of international trips available to everyone.