Global Studies


For Middle School trips, please visit the Middle School Global Studies page. For outdoor experiences, please go to the Outdoor Programs page.

Riverdale Country School offers its Middle and Upper School students numerous opportunities to travel abroad and learn about a country's history, culture, language, and contemporary society. Students form new friendships through exchanges with schools, homestays with families, and field work with local community groups. Through these relationships, students develop a personal connection to other countries and a broader worldview. Examples of our trips include:

  • Ongoing exchange visits with France, Spain, and China organized by our foreign language department. Students stay with families during the trip, and then reciprocate when those schools send students to Riverdale. These experiences develop students' language proficiency and give them insight into the contemporary culture in those countries.

  • Service-learning trips to learn about regional issues. In 2017, students went to New Zealand to learn how community organizers have helped Christchurch recover after two devastating earthquakes. A biennial trip to Peru combines service-learning among indigenous people with Spanish language development and outdoor experiences in the Amazon River basin and the Andes.

  • Course-related trips connected to specific activities. Latin students go to Rome on a biennial trip that deepens their knowledge of the Classical World. The Jazz Ensemble has been to Australia in 2014 and England in 2016. Theater students have traveled to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. 

  • For the third year, our growing Outdoor Leadership Program is taking a group of students on a backcountry, backpacking expedition through Patagonia National Park in the largely undeveloped Aysen region of Patagonian Chile.

Upper School Global Studies Trips for 2018

Astrophysics in the Colorado Rockies - June 2018

Astrophysics in the Colorado RockiesJune 2018

Trip Leaders: John Saunders, Beth Pillsbury, Alex Laing

In the Field: June 12–June 20, 2018
In the Lab: June 21–July 13, 2018

Cost of Trip: $3,000. Financial aid is available: please contact Sheila Hicks-Rotella ( Trip cost will be billed directly from the Finance Office.

Students who will be Juniors or Seniors in Fall 2018 may apply for this research program. While the program is intended for rising 11th and 12th graders, rising 10th graders with a very high level of interest and especially strong success in science and math are also encouraged to apply.

Trip Description: The Riverdale Astrophysics Program will challenge students to collect data and conduct original astrophysics research. Students will learn about the processes within stars that give rise to periodic variations in brightness and they will conduct photometric measurements of stars using hands-on methods.

The Riverdale Astrophysics Program will start with a trip to the Colorado Rockies to observe the night sky and take data on variable stars. We will leave on the afternoon of graduation, 6/12, and spend the next seven days at cabins in Lodgepole Pine forests of the High Mountain Institute near Leadville, Colorado. In the evenings, we will use our telescope and CCD camera to do photometry on variable stars and asteroids. During the afternoons we will engage in a variety of mountain activities such as hiking, rafting, and kayaking. When we return from the trip, we will spend 15 work days from 6/21 to 7/13 working on analyzing that data and collecting additional data from remote telescopes.

Students will have the opportunity to craft their work into a presentation and poster at our Science Symposium in the fall, and students with continuing interest in the field may use this work as the first step toward a scientific publication.

Students will earn a stipend of $80.00 per day during the time they are working at the RCS campus, between June 21 and July 13.

Application Process: To apply, a student will be asked to 1) write a paragraph saying why they are interested in the program, 2) read and annotate a chapter about variable stars that US science teacher John Saunders will provide, 3) meet with Mr. Saunders to discuss the chapter, bringing lots of questions for him, 4) provide Mr. Saunders with the name of a Riverdale science teacher who will write a recommendation for them, and 5) submit paperwork for a work permit.

Application Deadline: January 17, 2018

Qualified applicants will have:

  • A strong interest in astronomy
  • An ability to be responsible with delicate and valuable scientific equipment
  • Demonstrated success in science and math
  • A willingness to work with computers

Prior knowledge of physics or computer science is not required or expected. We will learn all the topics we need as we go. However, if a student has prior experience with coding, there will be opportunities to use those skills in exciting ways.

Riverdale in Ecuador & The Galapagos - June 2018

Riverdale in Ecuador & The GalapagosJune 2018

Trip Leaders: Miriam Piña, Alan Pike

Dates of Travel: June 14–June 27, 2018

Cost of Trip: $5,200–$5,500, plus $200 to cover snacks and any souvenirs. Includes airfare, ground transportation, sightseeing (entrance fees and guides), lodging, breakfasts, lunches, dinners. Financial aid is available: please contact Sheila Hicks-Rotella ( Trip cost will be billed directly from the Finance Office.

Visa: A visa is not required for US citizens.

Vaccinations: It is advisable for all travelers to update their routine vaccinations. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your annual flu shot. For Ecuador, the list also includes Hep A, Hep B, Yellow Fever, Malaria and Typhoid.

Trip Description: Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the planet. From Amazonian rainforests and majestic Andean peaks to the incomparable Galapagos, Ecuador is a stunning landscape. Riverdale aims to immerse students in an educational and exploratory experience in one of the last places on Earth that has stood its ground against the potentially debilitating impacts of the developing world. A visit to the Galapagos Islands remains an unparalleled memory for decades after an explorer leaves the Islands. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an experience that can have a lasting impact on many different facets of life.

On this trip, we will experience authentic Andean culture and participate in purposeful service learning. During the first part of the trip, we will visit Quito, Ecuador’s colonial capital, and then travel to an Andean rural community for the homestay and cultural exchange part of the trip. Following our stay on mainland Ecuador, we will take a plane to the Galapagos Islands and will stay there, exploring the various islands, for the rest of the trip. As the islands are also well-known for their biodiversity, the group will explore essential themes of environment, conservationism, and sustainability. We will engage in scientific study and inquiries about the massive endemic species, both animals and plants in the region, to better understand local ecosystem. We will learn and have conversations about the development of farming, fishing, and tourism industries on the islands and their effects on the local biodiversity.

If you would like to check out the details, please review this proposed itinerary.

Application Deadline: February 16, 2018

Please contact Susan Polise (, or Miriam Piña ( if you have any questions.

Summer 2018

Astrophysics in the Colorado Rockies
  (Upper School):
     June 12–July 13

Summer Science Research and Outdoor Leadership Expedition: Ecology and Exploration in the Alaskan Arctic
  (Upper School):
     June 21 to July 7

Ecuador and the Galapagos
  (Upper School):
     June 14–June 27

Riverdale Country School

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Bronx, NY 10471
LS: (718) 549-7780

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Bronx, NY 10471
MS/US: (718) 549-8810

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