One of the celebrated parts of the cultural tradition at Mineola High School, the foreign student exchange, was brought back to the high school after years of dormancy. Months of preparation led by Paul Pereira, a member of the high school Social Studies Department, culminated with a week-long visit by 13 students and 2 teachers from United Lisbon International School. Mineola High School exchange programs with schools in Portugal date back to 1997. This fifth incarnation of the exchange was unique in that it was the first with an international school. Although all the students attend high school in Portugal, they hail from all four corners of the globe. There were students from China, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Egypt, Brazil, and, of course, Portugal.
The students from ULIS touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, October 29th for the first leg of the exchange program. Mineola students will return the favor with a visit to Portugal in the Spring of 2023. Over the course of the week, these students were able to experience the wonder and beauty of Long Island and New York City in the fall.
The exchange got off to a fabulous start with a visit to the Highline and Greenwich Village on Sunday to provide the visitors with their first taste of the “Big Apple”. The visitors were then officially welcomed to Mineola High School on Monday, October 31st with a welcome breakfast reception, provided by the MHS Portuguese Club. The Mineola community and school district were represented by Central Administration and High School Administration, as well as invited local elected officials. After spending the day attending class with their hosts, the exchange students then enjoyed the traditional Halloween festivities with their host families.
The week that followed was a whirlwind tour of Gotham that included walking tours of Brooklyn Heights, the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan, Midtown, Central Park, Chinatown and the quintessential New York City experience, a Broadway musical. Along with the history and beauty of Manhattan, the students from Portugal got a quick lesson in the crush of a subway station at rush hour, the dexterity needed to cross a street in Times Square and the importance of good walking shoes.
On their last full day in Mineola, the students got to experience a bit of Long Island with a visit to the Gold Coast Vanderbilt Mansion and Planetarium. The Village of Mineola also got in on the action and helped to make the students feel welcome. Mayor Pereira greeted the students at village hall with a short tour, presentation, and a “goodie” bag for their trip home. The students had one last farewell with a group dinner, that included the host families, at Spaghettini Pizza and Trattoria. After the farewell party, organized by the host parents, it was time for the return trip to Portugal. The visiting students were overheard commenting that this experience was “the best week of their life”. The hosting Mineola students concurred.
The ULIS students, and chaperones, arrived back safely in Portugal on the morning of Sunday, November 6th, a bit tired but with incredible memories of friendships made and culture experienced. The outbound experience in Portugal in April will only add to the incredible experience.