Traveling the World Under New Orders

Shaker’s exchange programs are long standing and far reaching, but Trump’s travel ban, views of the U.S. abroad are limiting experiences


Jen Hu-Yan

Shaker students Jacob Connell, Seamus Scanlon, Thomas Lang and Jackson Lang traveled to China as a part of the high school’s summer immersion program. The students stayed with host families whose children visited the U.S. the following academic year.

Shaker’s exchange programs continue despite limits imposed by U.S. immigration policy and concerns about protests in American cities.

The second version of the executive order outlining President Donald Trump’s travel ban establishes a 90-day ban on entry for individuals from six predominantly Muslim countries: Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. This version of the ban exempts permanent U.S. residents and visa holders and cuts the number of immigrants from these countries annually allowed into the United States to 50,000 from 110,000.

Two Iranian asylum-seeking students from Shaker’s sister school in Worthing, England, were denied travel to the United States and will not attend this year’s Shaker-Worthing exchange.

According to Tori Bond, who coordinates Worthing’s participation, a Slovakian student residing in Worthing traveled to Shaker for the exchange more than two years ago. This year, Bond said, the Iranian students had British travel documents yet were told by U.S. immigration authorities that they would not be admitted.

This denial occurred the same day that the Trump administration imposed the second, revised version of the initial ban, which a federal judge had deemed discriminatory for singling out Muslims.
Shaker Heights High School currently has partnerships with high schools in Worthing, England; Hebei, China; Nara, Japan; Goslar, Germany; Rouen, France and Concepción, Chile. In light of the role the ban has played in the Shaker-Worthing Exchange, other Shaker exchange participants have expressed concerns about international travel and the school’s overseas relationships.

“This ban limits the experience Shaker students have to travel and see the world as part of our many exchanges,” said Dr. John Morris, who coordinates Shaker’s Worthing Exchange program.

“Likewise, it limits our identity as global learners when a part of the world is cut off from us and us from it,” he added. “I have also had students express anxiety over how they will be viewed by others outside of our country given these new restrictive policies. Will being a U.S., citizen become synonymous with close-mindedness and bias?”

Woodrow Cox, a British student who participated in the Shaker-Worthing exchange in 2014, said the ban reflects American arrogance.

“I believe it is rather pretentious to exclude minorities simply because Trump believes Americans are better than any other nationality, and it is discriminatory,” he said.

This fear of negative international perception was echoed by students who have participated in Shaker’s exchange programs.

“I think it’s important to make it clear to our sister schools that we are not in support of this ban,” senior Jessa Kaups, who participated in last year’s Worthing exchange said. “We, as kids and young adults, have a lot of responsibility to build relationships with people from different cultures and backgrounds.”

“The trip opened my eyes to the American way of life,” Cox said. “Being a part of another family for that short period of time and sharing experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life way very special.”

In addition to the impact the travel ban has had on global exchange, Asian Studies teacher Molly Miles explained that Shaker’s Japanese sister school expressed concern regarding American travel for other reasons.

“Initially the sister school was going to travel to Washington D.C., New York City and Los Angeles,” Miles stated in an email interview. “They only ended up in Los Angeles because they were nervous about the aggressive protests and campaigning surrounding Trump. The target of the Trump tower in New York City, and his presence in Washington D.C. did not make the sister school feel confident their visit would be safe.”

Shaker is trying to continue its international programs in spite of the ban. Morris explained that The Worthing Exchange would persist.

“The good news is that we will continue the Worthing Exchange trip this summer,” he said. “We have enough travelers on both sides for the trip. Both school administrations were sympathetic to our situation and wanted the trip to continue. The unfortunate news is that our two Worthing Iranian asylum-seekers, Mohsen and Pedram, are still not allowed in the U.S.”

A version of this article appears in print on page 3 of Volume 87, Issue 4, published May 5, 2017.

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