Cultural Exchange…in Idaho

Alzar School | 23.10.20

One of Alzar School’s Six Foundations is Cultural Exchange. At first glance, our travels to Chile and immersion in the Patagonian culture there are clear illustrations of this foundation. However, this foundation is intentionally not called International Travel or Global Perspective. Although travel to Chile is not possible for our Fall 2020 community, Alzar School is accomplishing our foundation of Cultural Exchange within our community and right outside our backdoor in Idaho. 

Cultures and students mingling on the Campus Green.

Assembling a student body from across fifteen different states, twenty-eight different schools and thirty different households inherently creates a melange of cultures and student identities. Students come to Alzar School with one common denominator — a desire for something more out of their high school experience. In doing so, they engage in and learn from each other’s backgrounds as they go about shared experiences in the classroom and in the outdoors at Alzar School. Each and every day, in just living and studying with one another, students explore, learn, and sometimes wrestle with, cultures that differ from their own. 

Students helping to process potatoes.


As students explore and discover their sense of identity within their semester cohort, Alzar School also introduces activities for students that help them develop a sense of place in Idaho and learn about local culture. This semester is no exception. Although COVID-19 protocols have kept our Semester Seventeen students from interacting more freely with people outside of the Alzar School community, we’ve been able to turn our attention inward, looking to staff who live off-campus to share their lives and culture in rural Idaho with our students. 

Students grinding apples into pulp to press into juice.

In early October, students engaged in a quintessential, although overly stereotypical, Idahoan activity: harvesting potatoes. In fields that have been tilled by her family since 1909, Alzar School accountant and CPA, Kendra Brown and her father, former Idaho Senator, Ken Roberts, showed students how to prepare Russet seed potatoes for winter storage. Seed potatoes are spuds used to plant next year’s crop. This week, students ventured to Alzar School’s Director of Advancement, Anita Cussler’s, second-generation farm to press apples and learn about the Finnish settlers of the valley. These quaint and pastoral experiences provide an opportunity for students to witness rural American culture first-hand and view the lives of school staff beyond an office or desk. Looking to the months ahead, students will again be faced with a whole new culture and set of activities in Idaho’s snowy mountainous climate!

At Alzar School, Cultural Exchange is not defined by any foreign place or people. It is a practice. It is a willingness to seek out something new, talk to someone different, hear others’ values and ideas, and share your own. For students at Alzar School, this practice happens every day.