Today’s guest blogger is Sarah Oliver. Sarah is a recent graduate of Vassar College and now serves on the Credit Suisse Team serving at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem.

On the morning of Thursday, January 28, more than 20 of our students from grades 3 through 6 gathered in the library at PS/MS 57 for what was an exciting opportunity. For many of them, London is a faraway place that they know very little about. Thanks to Credit Suisse, who sponsors the City Year teams at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem and Mossbourne Parkside Academy in London, our students had the chance to meet and talk to real students from across the pond. You could feel the energy in the room as we prepared for the Skype call.

A bit nervous at first, our students started off the call with lots of waving and shy smiles. The students in London began by showing us their version of “PT”, a boisterous chant with movements that they asked us to participate in. They proceeded to show us posters of sites around the city and important pieces of London culture. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic the London students were about their city and also how incredibly engaged our PS/MS 57 students were. Their faces lit up as they talked about Big Ben, Parliament, and The Gherkin Building, a skyscraper that looks like a pickle!

When it was our turn to share, I led the students in the PS/MS 57 Tiger Pride Pledge, a statement of our school values that we recite every morning on the loud speaker. Our students said the words with confidence, taking pride in sharing the PS/MS 57 school culture with others.

Then, each student shared his/her favorite part about living in New York City. Students mentioned Harlem's culture, the historic Apollo Theater, the many public parks and museums that our city has to offer, and even the local GameStop. It was refreshing to hear my students show pride in their community.

Next came the question and answer session, and boy, were these students curious! The Londoners asked if we really had huge subway rats, while our students wanted to know if the Queen walked around in public (she doesn’t). We discussed favorite subjects in school, the differences between our uniforms (including City Year- City Year UK wears black pants instead of khakis!), and the ways that holidays are celebrated in each cities. Some other favorite topics included shopping on Oxford Street, our recent snowstorm to New York City, and how you can tell if the Queen is at home.

I felt so lucky to have shared this incredible experience with my students. When I took my students back to class, they couldn’t stop talking about the Skype call. They told everyone about meeting students with cool accents and beautiful uniforms, living on a different continent. It was amazing to see their minds expand with new knowledge about the world around them. 

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