Farewell from Exchange Students

Six students from Australia and South Africa have spent the last six weeks at Athenian on exchange through Round Square. They wrote down some thoughts about their time here before departing for home.

Mumina Tunne – St. Philips School in Australia

IMG_1496♥ My Exchange ♥ – Exchange, to say the least, was an incredible experience.  Leaving Australia all by myself, to meet people I have never met, was very frightening, but my fears quickly diminished when I was met by the warm embrace of Linda and Lauren Glenn.  Being able to share my life for six weeks and envelope myself into their way of being has been a wonderful experience. Never would I have thought that I might have made friends so quickly and friendships so close.  It’s physically hard to leave them behind.  During exchange I experienced things I never did before (e.g. Mexican food, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Pop Tarts, s’mores, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Arnold Palmers, Panda Express, and a one-night sea kayaking trip organized by the Athenian Adventure Club.)

Being on exchange has helped me grow as a person.  I never knew how much my thoughts and actions are affected by my close family, but being on exchange has taught me to be independent and explore myself more.

It has been all these incredibly unique experiences that have made my exchange such an amazing and unique one, and that I’m forever grateful for.

Megan de Vos – Bridge House School in South Africa

My exchange experience has become so much more meaningful to me than I could have ever imagined—and hearing from previous friends who had the time of their lives, I had high expectations.  And it has exceeded them exponentially!  Athenian has, without the shadow of a doubt, become one of the most important places to me and it will stay in my memory for the rest of my life.

IMG_3200Throughout my experience, I have met some of the most passionate and open-minded people I have ever, and probably will ever, meet in my life.  Something about the overall underlying vibe of this community makes you think twice about everything and ask questions.  Everyone was so welcoming and exciting—which is contradictory to what you expect from a tight-knit school community.  I have bonded with people from all walks of life and my eyes have definitely been opened to the world around me, all thanks to Athenian.

I have truly been spoiled with regards to experiences—from touring the Bay Area endlessly (San Francisco, etc.) to going to Los Angeles.  I have Jim Sternberg, Kathleen Huntington and Tessa Sternberg to thank for being the best host family I could have ever even wished for.  I have truly gotten an incredible American experience.

My time at Athenian will be time I will look back on and cherish forever.  All I can say is THANK YOU for absolutely every moment I got the privilege of spending amongst Athenian students. This is definitely not the last time you will see of me.  I promise to be back and visit soon.

Khanya Nkambule – Stanford Lake College in South Africa

IMG_4766This exchange experience has been something I’d been anticipating for almost a year.  Before arriving, your mind is often filled with questions, wondering about ‘what kind of people you’ll meet,’ ‘whether people will like you or not’ and ‘if you’ll fit in,’ to name just a few.  Coming close to the end of my experience, it’s hard to believe how quickly it’s gone by.  There’s still so much to do, so much to say, but I will have to leave content with what I did do and say.

I’ve loved exchange and it will definitely be hard leaving these surroundings and the friends I’ve made.  The Athenian School has helped me discover new things about myself.  I will forever acknowledge its staff and ethos.  My host family was absolutely lovely and they made me feel very welcome.  I enjoyed visiting Mount Diablo, Sacramento, Berkeley and San Francisco.  Most of all, I have loved making new friends and will always keep them in my heart.

Reneilwe Komape – Stanford Lake College in South Africa

malcolm (15 of 16)The first day of school at Athenian was the worst day ever.  I felt out-of-place and I was so convinced that I wouldn’t go to school the next day!  I eventually adapted to the environment and I actually ended up loving school!  It was because of the people and their smiles. Besides the first day, there has never been a day when I didn’t smile or laugh at Athenian.

One of the things I wanted to do when I was on exchange was to get out of my comfort zone and take on something I thought I’d never be able to do.  So I decided to join cross-country at Athenian!  I was so scared because I heard people say that it was so hard and I won’t survive.  At first I believed them, but then, as crazy as I am, I took on the challenge and I have surely survived and enjoyed every moment of it.  I have courage and stretched myself beyond the ordinary.  This is one of my home school values that I put into practice when I was on exchange.

Athenian really opened my eyes and changed my view on some things.  The work load at Athenian is way more compared to my school!  And the way the students take school way serious motivated me to want to do better than I did before I came on exchange!

Amy Bower – Westminster School in Australia

Coming to Athenian was an overall amazing experience.  As Athenian is so different from my school back in Australia, it was great to experience your school and how you do things.  Everybody at Athenian has been so welcoming and have all been super friendly towards all of the exchanges.

My favorite part of being on exchange has been visiting downtown San Francisco and making friends that I know I will keep in touch with for a long time to come and hopefully see again someday.  It has been interesting to learn new ‘American’ words and teach other people our ‘Australian’ words. There has been a few embarrassing misunderstandings along the way that I know I will forever remember.

My time here has made me a more independent person, after traveling through LAX and Miami airport alone. 

I have also opened my eyes to the less fortunate people living on the streets and have become a more compassionate person after visiting Glide and Saint Anthony’s for community service.  I loved visiting both facilities and feel like I have a better understanding of what it is like to be a homeless person living on the streets of San Francisco.

Nick Harris – Westminster School in Australia

My favorite thing about doing this Round Square exchange with the Athenian School has been the life-long friendships I have made with many amazing Athenian students over the 7 weeks I have been here.

The main differences have been having to start school an hour earlier, the way the classes are run, and how everything is upside down or opposite (e.g. the light switches are upside down and the steering wheels and cars are on the “wrong” side of the road). 

I have learned that no matter where you go in the world, as long as the people around you are fun and caring, you will have an amazing experience. 

The Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco are all amazing.

I will be back that is for sure …

Students Write How-To’s for Arduino Microcontrollers

An essential part of the Applied Science and Engineering Class is reflecting on the process involved in creating a project in such a way that others can reproduce the project. Honors students in the class created how-to’s using the Instructables Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project-sharing platform.  Collectively, their eleven projects have already received more than 9600 views from Instructables users since they were posted earlier this week–a sign that the students not only created compelling projects, but that their how-tos are easy to follow. One project in particular, How to Do Arduino-Controlled Time-Lapse Photography by Holden Leslie-Bole ’14, was featured by Instructables editors on the homepage. Holden was awarded a free premium membership in recognition of the success of his project.

Students spent three weeks learning how to use and create with Arduinos, single-board microcontrollers that make the use of electronics in multidisciplinary projects more accessible through an open-source electronic prototyping platform.  Projects ranged from Arduino-controlled temperature sensors to a smart heart monitor, to a dubstep piano keyboard. Students kept journals of their process, diagrammed their circuitry, wrote carefully commented code, and gave presentations of their work to conclude the project.

David Otten, course instructor, outlined the goals of the microcontroller project for the students at the outset:

The goal of this project is to learn how to use microcontrollers (hardware and software) and what sorts of applications they are useful for.  To this end, you have been asked to come up with a microcontroller application that interests you.  It must respond to the environment and so should have at least 1 input and 1 output.  Since we have a wide range of experience in the class, the complexity of your project should reflect your skill level.  The focus of this project should be on the circuit and the code (80-90% of your time), not the mechanical aspects – simplify components if you need to (e.g. “this piece of cardboard represents my Levelor blinds” or “this switch represent my toilet flusher”).

Explore their projects here:


On Nelson Mandela: Round Square Patron and Global Humanitarian, by Dick Bradford

Round Square Patrons South African President, Nelson Mandela, and Sonia Gandhi at the Rajiv Gandhi Golden Jubilee Memorial Lecture ceremony in New Delhi on January 25, 1995. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Round Square Patrons Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, and Sonia Gandhi at the Rajiv Gandhi Golden Jubilee Memorial Lecture ceremony in New Delhi on January 25, 1995. Photo: The Hindu Archives via The Hindu Business Line.

Reflections on Nelson Mandela’s passing by Head of School Dick Bradford, sent to the Athenian community on December 6, 2013. 

Dear Students and Colleagues,

As you know, Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday. We will fly the flag at half-staff until sunset on Monday out of respect for his life and work. Nelson Mandela was a man who dared to take on a country steeped in the culture of apartheid. He endured 27 years of imprisonment and emerged as the leader of the country that put him in jail. He changed forever the rule of apartheid, pushing South Africa, through the force of his will, into the 21st century. You should also know that among his many accomplishments and positions on the world stage, he was also for a number of years a Patron of the Round Square Conference of schools, which meant he was in direct support of the pillars of Round Square.

I hope we all take a few minutes to reflect today on the life and times of Nelson Mandela. Advisors might want to spend some time in their meetings on this, or classroom teachers.  I know we are crunched for time here at the end of the semester, but however we do it, let’s each find a way to remember a man who was living proof of the famous quotation from Margaret Mead  when she said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

I am including some links for your consideration that have images and words about  this remarkable man:

An overview of his life from the History Channel

A slide show on his life from the Daily Intelligencer 

Article including a 12 minute video outlining his life from the New York Times

The Nelson Mandela website, which provides an opportunity to send condolences to his family


Dick Bradford

Excerpt from Speech Delivered by HM King Constantine at the Second Round Square Conference for 2012

September 27, 2012

It took a great visionary, one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century to help bring balance in South Africa. As most of you know, the former President of this country, Nelson Mandela, is a Patron of Round Square. I had the good fortune to ask him if he would agree to become a Patron at the Southport Conference in 1995.

He has asked me to convey to you, not only his best wishes, but also that you will take full advantage of the friendships you will form in the coming days, for they will stay with you for the rest of your lives and help you in gaining a better understanding of the future and of different cultures.

As I stand here, in anticipation for what is promising to be another great Conference, I fully identify with President Mandela’s words: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.

Billanook College Students Teach Australian Football

Twenty-four high school students from Billanook College, a Round Square school in Melbourne Australia, visited Athenian this week. On a Bay Area stopover on their way to Vancouver, the Australian students spent a day at Athenian, teaching Middle School P.E. classes, lunching with Upper Schoolers, and playing Australian football. They brought with them 30 Australian footballs which they donated to the school. Thank you, Billanook students, for sharing your experience and athletic equipment with Athenian!

Read more about international Round Square experiences at Athenian:

Netball, Saturday School, Tea and Uniforms: Study Abroad in the United Kingdom

The Beat Goes On…Athenian Students Get Into the Rhythm of South Africa

Wishes for the World

Athenians on Exchange

Haley Goes to India

Join Athenian in a Day of Giving: #GivingTuesday

Dear Athenian Families:


Grandma Jay, Eric, Meg, Cade, Uncle Mike
Thanksgiving 2013

I hope you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving break with your children. Meg and I certainly had a restful few days surrounded by friends and family. We know how much we have to be thankful for living and working in this Athenian community.

At The Athenian School, we’ve understood for a long time the importance of giving back. Our students not only study the world – they also work to change it for the better.  This year, on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, Athenian  is joining a call to action that will change the calendar and help make history. We are celebrating a day dedicated to giving  when charities, families, businesses, community centers, students, retailers and more will all come together for #GivingTuesday – a movement to celebrate giving and encourage more, better and smarter giving during the Holiday Season that we are proud to be part of.

I invite you to join us on #GivingTuesday as hundreds of Athenian alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and students celebrate the spirit of service and philanthropy that is at the core of what it means to be part of the Athenian community. Certainly, if you haven’t yet given to the Athenian Annual fund, please consider giving today. Know that this gift allows us to better deliver the unique Athenian School education that you have come to expect.

Please see below for more information on #GivingTuesday and for ways to get your family involved.


Eric Niles, Head of School

More About #GivingTuesday

join global movementA team of recognized experts and influencers, initially convened by leaders of 92nd Street Y and supported by a core group of founding partners, originally spearheaded this effort. Founding partners in 2012 included United Nations Foundation, DonorsChoose.org, Mashable, Blackbaud, charity: water, GlobalGiving, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Kiva, Darden Restaurant Group, Groupon, Unilever and VentureThree Capital. Leaders in philanthropy, social media, innovative giving, grassroots organizing, marketing and communications are providing counsel and resources to help build this movement.

“#GivingTuesday is a counter narrative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday because it reminds us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. “The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to help build a better world.”

#GivingTuesday FAQs

Ideas to Involve the Family

foodHave a family conversation about your favorite foods and the healthy foods you having been trying to eat. Take some of those foods from your cabinets (non perishable) and bring them to your local food pantry.

Take an #UNselfie! How? Take a “selfie” with a caption explaining how or why you and your friends are “giving” this year. Use #Unselfie and #Athenian so we can find your photo.


Home Treasure Hunt! Look in your closets at home. Collect what is not being used, what hasn’t been used in a long time, and the extras you have, and donate to a program that sets up families in new homes.

“Change of Season” – At the beginning of each new season, think of one specific item that is needed. For instance, gloves and hats for winter, socks for fall, T-shirts for summer, etc. Do a collection in your neighborhood, building, or school for just that one item and donate.


Hold a neighborhood yard or bake sale and donate proceeds to an organization in need.

For an entire week or two, everyone in the family skips the “extras.” Take the money you would have spent on after school treats, a special ice cream, or coffees from your favorite vendor, and collect it all in a jar. Watch it mount and donate to your local food pantry to help others get the essentials foods they need.

Want more? Check out these tips and ideas: