Round Square Delegation Travels to India


David Thompson

Part of the 2019 Round Square Delegation gathers in front of The Emerald Heights International School.

Each year, Round Square conferences give students the opportunity to visit different countries with their peers, engage in thoughtful discussions, assist with service projects, and go on adventures. This fall, the school’s delegation attended the first 2019 International Round Square conference in India.
This year’s conference was held from October 2-8 at the The Emerald Heights International School, a co-ed boarding school located in Indore, the most populous city in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The school’s delegation included students Daniela Clejan ’20, Luke Gardiner ’21, Max Grossman ’21, Keren Mikanda ’21, and Tamsin Nottage ’20, and faculty members Mr. David Thompson, director of international programs, and Mrs. Caroline Kenny-Burchfield ’77, coordinator of volunteer programs.
The school began its relationship with the Round Square organization in 1999, when the class of 1948 created The Fund for Global Understanding. The fund encourages international travel and created the position of director of international programs. The school became an official Round Square school in 2004 and has sent delegations to conferences twice a year for 15 years. Mr. Thompson said, “Our membership in Round Square provides us tools that we can use to make our [international] program better.”
Each year, a theme for the conference acts as the foundation for activities and discussions throughout the week. For the 2019 spring Round Square conference in Lima, Peru, the theme was “Into the Unknown.” This year, the fall conference’s theme is “Sarvodaya – The World We Wish to See.” The Sanskrit word sarvodaya means “progress for all.” The theme emphasizes the importance of working together as a community to make change in the world. The logo of the conference features hands belonging to people of different ethnicities lifting up the globe.
Round Square schools pledge to uphold six core values, or IDEALS, an acronym that stands for internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership, and service. Conferences are designed to encourage delegates to apply the IDEALS to their personal lives and schools when they return home.
Round Square encourages people to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves in everyday life. The website writes that students “don’t have to wear a backpack and hiking boots to experience adventure; they don’t have to be a doctor to save lives; they don’t have to go on a community service project to help a community in need.”
During the conference, the delegation broke into smaller groups and mixed with delegations from other schools. The small groups stayed together for the duration of the conference and participated in adventures and projects together. The group system was designed to create closer connections between delegates. Emily Heimer ’21, who attended the Round Square conference in Peru last year, said, “What really was most beneficial to me was meeting people from different cultures and learning about how they live their lives.”
Among the events at the fall 2019 conference, delegates attended a lecture by Madame Gandhi, an electronic music artist and activist based in Los Angeles. Madame Gandhi discussed the women’s issues, including fighting to overcome the stigma of menstruation, and 90’s hip-hop.
The delegates heard calls to prayer across the rooftops, saw parades to bring the goddess Durga to the temple, Rajasthani drummers welcoming people, and two traditional Indian musicians playing the tabla and sarangi at a gathering at the home of the principal of Emerald Heights.
The Round Square program gives students the opportunity to test their limits in a low-stakes environment. Delegates confront many challenges when attending a Round Square conference, including navigating unfamiliar countries with strangers.
At the 2019 spring conference in Lima, Peru, students participated in white-water rafting, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Madeline Loeffler ’20, a 2019 Peru delegate said, “You have to be prepared for anything. Don’t close yourself off or you will never experience the world.”
Delegates from the school will attend the next Round Square conference in Chile in the spring of 2020.