Round Square Regional Conference: Learning to Be My Best Self

RS_ArgentinaThe Round Square Regional Conference of the America’s at Belgrano Day School sadly came to an end on April 25, 2017 – too fast for everyone participating in the conference.

Round Square is something that I have always had an interest in. Its philosophy of uniting six diverse IDEALS (International, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure, Leadership, Service) into one way of life is unique and definitely something that I wanted to be a part of.

I found out about this conference in Argentina a year ago. I remember having a good feeling about it and instantly wanting to go. After talking to students who had just came back from the conference in LA, I knew that it was something for me. The experiences they had and the lessons they learnt about being well-rounded powerful leaders were ones that I too wanted to embrace. Never did I think that my decision to go would have had such a positive impact on me.

Argentina, even though it is troubled in certain political, economic and social sectors, has a special and unique thing about it that is quite hard to find – a positive environment/atmosphere. From the moment I entered the doors of Belgrano Day School, not once was I subjected to negative energy. Everyone and everything gave off positive energy, fuelling everyone’s happiness throughout the week. Friendships were started with a laugh, hardships were overcome with a hug and tears came purely from laughing too hard. This helped change the conference from being great to being amazing.

During the conference, the delegates had the opportunity to embrace whatever was thrown their way due to the positive and supportive environment of the conference. From the workshops and Ben Walden’s amazing speech to Techo and the Photo Safari Day, these experiences brought us together and taught us about leadership, service and responsibility. They showed us the importance of teamwork and dedication. Techo was truly an eye-opening experience. In the short time we spent there, my barazza and I pooled our efforts to create the base of the house we were constructing. The family it was going to was one that consisted of three lovely ladies – a mother and her two daughters. At the end of the day, even though we were all physically drained, I will never forget the smile on those two little girls’ faces as they ran across the elevated floor. It made every second and every bit of sweat worth it. Their happiness was all we needed to come together and create something life changing for those humble and nice people we got to volunteer for.

My experience went above and beyond the lessons learnt about the IDEALS. I have to admit that this trip was the first one I was experiencing alone. At first, I was slightly scared because I was travelling to South America, a continent so far from home, a place I never thought of visiting. On the day of the opening ceremony, Mr. Page, the former headmaster of Belgrano Day School, made everyone feel welcome by beginning his speech accompanied by four teddy bears. The four teddy bears represented a hug for anyone who was homesick. I thought I would be one of those people needing a teddy to hug. Instead, the opposite happened. In Argentina, I never felt more at home. It’s culture and way of life is very similar to my own as I am part Italian. Right from the beginning, starting with my amazing host family, the Alonsos, I was welcomed with a hug and a huge smile. They were truly one of a kind. They share strong family values and traditions like my own family and the respect they have for each other and others is an example. I felt like I was with my family in Italy and in Montreal. My host family, with their loveable personalities, made my stay in Argentina even more memorable.

If I had to choose the most memorable part of my trip I would choose the wonderful people I met. Over the course of six days, I made friendships that I will keep for life. Whether they were delegates or student leaders, 15 or 17 years old, I connected with all of them. Many friendships started in interesting ways; some were started right in my barazza, with friendly competition when playing field hockey, with playful teasing, and with rock-paper-scissors in the middle of a food court. They made you feel welcome and when you were with them you felt positive. I realized the importance of surrounding oneself with positive people, the importance of having a positive attitude and the effects of positive energy in everyday life. It taught me a lot about myself and who I want to surround myself with. In such a short time we came together and formed a tight bond which I will never forget.

A big thank you goes to all the dedicated and passionate student leaders and organizers of this conference. The memories created are owed to them. With their outgoing, cheerful and friendly personalities, it made the conference successful. Their enthusiasm and smile was contagious and made this experience worth remembering.

This Round Square Conference in Argentina will be remembered forever. It has taught me the importance of service, leadership and leading by example. Most of all, it gave me insight on how to be my best self.

Thank you LCC and Ms. Shadley for this amazing opportunity! – MariaLuisa Vigano ’18

Round Square Regional Conference: Building Houses and Changing Lives

IMG_3934 IMG_4055Saturday April 22:

On the bus ride to build a house today, I thought that I would just be building a simple house. Little did I know that meeting the people who would live in this house, experiencing their way of life, and the hard work I put into this project would affect me so much. 

After getting off the bus, we walked through a town to get to the land which we would be building on. Except this wasn’t a typical town. There were dirt roads, homes without doors and missing bricks, stray cats and dogs everywhere and kids walking around barefoot. It was a complete culture shock. It was crazy to think that just an hour and a half away from the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, life could be so different. 

When we got to the land where we would be building the house, the family that would be living in the house was already waiting for us. A mother and her seven kids, ranging in age from 2 to 19, greeted us. They were so excited and happy to have us with them. For most of the day, I played with the kids. Although they did not speak a word of English, the bond that I created with them will never be forgotten. They tried to teach me some Spanish and I tried to teach them some English. Despite their living conditions, each of them had a smile on their face and were so happy that people were there to play with them. 

The house we built was placed right next to their current house, which is much smaller than the size of an LCC classroom and did not have enough beds for all of the kids to sleep in. The house had a dirt floor and didn’t have a front door or bathroom. 

When we finished putting up the pillars for the floor of the new house, we all wrote messages on the pillars. When the mom wrote her message she started crying and when I wrote my message, I started getting very emotional as well. That was when I truly realized the impact I had on this family. They will have a clean house to live in with wood floors and life will become a lot easier for them. Their lives will be changed forever because of our hard work. 

When it was time to say goodbye, I knew I didn’t want to leave. The little girls came up to me and gave me lots of hugs and kisses and asked me to come back the next day. I wish I could. I wish I could go back everyday and help this family and the millions of others suffering like them as well. 

As we walked on the road to leave, I started crying. This experience was life changing. It made me realize how grateful I am to have everything I do in life and underlined the importance of never taking anything for granted. It makes me sad to think that I will never see these kids again. 

This was an amazing experience and I am beyond happy that I had this opportunity. – Danielle Cutler ’18

Round Square Regional Conference: Beautiful Buenos Aires

IMG_3417.JPGI began my journey on April 22 at 9 a.m. Half of my Barazza (group) went to visit beautiful Buenos Aires on a city tour. When I read the itinerary I thought we would be sitting on a bus and just looking but I soon realized I was very wrong!

We began by taking the metro from Belgrano to downtown Buenos Aires. After getting there we began walking and little did my group members and I know that we would have a whole day of walking. Throughout the day we ended up walking 17.5 kilometres. Yes, you read that right! 17.5 kilometres! The sites we saw were unbelievably beautiful. We began with the Casa Rosado or Pink House. This is where the government comes to gather to discuss issues. We then saw the theatre here which is ranked number five for best acoustics. It was very impressive. After that we visited the Cathedral. I have seen many churches but this one was by far one of the most impressive. The architecture and design were so beautiful. The paintings on the walls were so authentic.

After a long morning of walking we had lunch in a shopping mall in the district of Recolleta. One of the most famous sites in all of Argentina is the “Cementerio de Recoleta” which I was lucky enough to see. As soon as I walked in my jaw dropped. It was so beautiful. I could not wrap my head around what I was seeing. This was the last stop on my tour of the city. We then took the metro back to school and I went home. That night I was greeted by my host family. We went out for dinner at a famous port. It was amazing. It was a long and eventful day! – Savina Cammalleri ’18


Round Square Regional Conference: From Argentina to Uruguay

IMG_1521Day 3 of the pre-conference was a really exciting and busy one. We woke up early and left our hotel in Argentina to catch a ferry to Uruguay.

After an hour and a half, we arrived in Colonia del Sacramento, a city in the province of Colonia on the same river as Buenos Aires, Río de la Plata. We walked around on the boardwalk along this river and reflected on our journey so far.

Following this, we made our way to a restaurant for lunch and ate Chivito, a delicious Uruguayan dish made of meat, eggs, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and fries. After lunch, we met our tour guide for a walk around Colonia. She took us to the old city and told us some of Uruguay’s history before and after its independence. We also learned that there are only two traffic lights in all of Colonia! We even saw a UNESCO sight, which was part of a wall that bordered the city many years ago. In addition, we climbed up to the top of a lighthouse with 118 stairs that gave us a beautiful view of the city. Finally, we went to one of Colonia’s ports.

Afterward, we went for ice cream and into some of the stores on one of the main streets, Flores. We then went for dinner at a really cozy and authentic restaurant.

All in all, traveling to Uruguay was a great experience and it was so interesting to learn about their culture. The conference starts tomorrow and we can’t wait! – Meghan Fersten ’18

Round Square Regional Conference: Our First Day in Argentina

Argentia_2017_2018_001On April 16, we landed on Argentinian soil. Ms. Shadley, Maria, Savina, Danielle, Meghan, MariaLuisa, Carson and I were exhausted from our 13-hour flight. However, thanks to our positive vibes and food that we purchased from McDonald’s, we gained a bit more energy. As soon as we walked out of the airport the heat rushed onto our faces. We then met a woman called Mariana, our very own tour guide. Mariana took us to a bus where we ate delicious cheese empanadas while driving to El Tigre, a small township of Buenos Aires. In El Tigre we took a traditional South American boat where we travelled down a canal and saw many country houses and elegant fishing boats. On the boat, we socialized (in Spanish) and made many new friends with the inhabitants. 

Afterwards, we walked to a local market where we looked around and purchased souvenirs and small gifts, that will forever remind us of our amazing experience. 

When we got to the hotel (Hotel Two), we unpacked and relaxed.

To end a  beautiful day,  we ate at a restaurant called Cabildo, and enjoyed some well-deserved pizza.   

All in all, the first day of this trip was fantastic, and we are all curious and excited to see what this Argentinian adventure brings next. – Renée Williams ’18