Woodlands Academy hosts delegation from Viennese sister school

Since its inception in 2008, the ongoing exchange program between Sacred Heart sister schools Woodlands Academy in Lake Forest and Sacré Coeur Wien in Vienna, Austria, has generated many invaluable academic and cultural experiences, including the lasting friendships that students and teachers alike have made. On March 1, Woodlands Academy, an all-girls college-prep high school, welcomed 12 Austrian sophomores and their two teacher/chaperones for a two-week visit to its Lake Forest campus.

The visiting delegation included four boys from the co-ed Austrian school. Despite some differences between schools in the two countries, the Austrian students assimilated quickly into their Woodlands Academy routine. Some of them credit the built-in Sacred Heart connection.

Austrian and Woodlands students agree that this connection means there is comfort and security in knowing that all are members of the same family. The students feel connected and valued, and they describe an automatic bond and a feeling of being “at home” with one another. Caring and being cared for are profound Sacred Heart values.

During their two-week visit, the Viennese students attended classes with their Woodlands student hosts. They stayed in the school’s dormitory during the first week of their visit and then in the homes of student hosts during the second week. Their classroom activities at Woodlands Academy included sharing various aspects of Austrian life, such as the country’s history, traditions, landmarks, and arts and culture.

In addition, the Viennese delegation shared in a variety of local experiences, such as a walking tour of the Chicago Loop, visits to the Art Institute and Museum of Science & Industry, seeing “In the Heights” at the Marriot Lincolnshire Theatre, attending a Milwaukee Bucks basketball game, and a visit to Bernie’s Book Bank in Lake Bluff.

Just before their March 15 departure, Woodlands Academy’s Austrian guests taught the entire student body some basic steps of the Viennese Waltz during an all-school assembly in the gym.

This year’s exchange began in September when 11 Woodlands students traveled to their sister school in Vienna for a fun, educational and culturally enriching 10-day experience. During their time there, they learned how Austrian teenagers live, study and spend their free time. All students who participate in this exchange program create friendships that continue long after returning to their home countries.

The exchange continues next school year when a delegation of Woodlands students will spend two weeks at Sacré Coeur Wien in the fall, followed by a visit from the Austrian school in March 2025.

“Woodlands Academy is committed to international Sacred Heart exchange,” said Associate Head of School & Director of the Center for Global Studies Christine Schmidt. “The Network of Sacred Heart Schools believes that global education awakens students and the larger community to the responsibility of participating actively in the human family worldwide.”

Sacred Heart schools that span the U.S. and 40 other countries on six continents allow Woodlands Academy to offer its students unique opportunities for a premiere global education experience. In addition to the ongoing reciprocal arrangement with its sister school in Vienna, Woodlands Academy’s exchange program hosts Sacred Heart students from several countries each year while providing opportunities for its students to spend time at Sacred Heart schools abroad.