Theirs to Discover: International Summer Academy Adds New Location

A first-time experience awaits in July 2020, when the St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) International Summer Academy (ISA) charts new territory!

In addition to Italy, a staple venue on the ISA map, the Caribbean island of Dominica is a new offering this year.

SMCS International Summer Academy students abroad


“Dominica was chosen because it is a new place where a lot of people haven’t been yet,” says Jenna Hilborn, biology teacher at SMCS. “It also has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the Caribbean, so students are going to be able to see different species of plants, fungi, and animals.”

The West Indies island nation is where ISA students can earn a credit in Interdisciplinary Studies in Conservation Biology, a Grade 12 course.

“There are many things that I hope the students will come away with from this experience. One is to see the effects of a natural disaster on a community and how much effort will go into restoring the parts of towns and forests that were destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 2017,” says Hilborn, who will be participating in the ISA for the first time this year. “I want them to gain the hands-on experience with the tools and techniques that conservation biologists and field biologists use in order to take surveys of the different species.”

Entering its eighth year, the ISA takes earning a credit and experiential learning to another level.

SMCS International Summer Academy students in Italy


Just ask Francis, a current Grade 12 student at SMCS, who participated last summer, earning a credit in International Business.

“What surprised me most about my experience was how I was able to take concepts I learned from lessons and relate them to when I was touring around the country of Italy,” he says.

Francis’ mother adds, “We wanted him to travel on his own but with enough supervision to experience independence and to be inspired to travel. He also wanted to understand international business more, as this is his dad’s career,” she says.

Fellow Grade 12 student Maximillian, also took part last year, following up on recommendations from friends who had previously participated.

“They explained it was a fantastic experience, and I would not regret it,” says Maximillian. “I knew I would have to work hard in the course at hand. The learning experience coupled with the free time you spend with friends made the trip truly unforgettable. Oh, and the food was unreal!” 

SMCS International Summer Academy students in Italy


The International Summer Academy is organized by the Student Affairs Department and designed for students in Grades 10 and 11.

“Over 150 students have experienced the International Summer Academy experience since its inception,” says Frank Trentadue ’84, Director of Student Affairs. “We have travelled to Italy, France, Croatia, the Galapagos.”

Having organized and participated in three previous ISA experiences, Trentadue says the ISA programme is impactful for several reasons, including: 

  • Students earn a credit while experiencing the unique cultures of the places visited
  • Having a global experience speaks to the formation of the whole student while giving them required experiences to choose from when making university or scholarship applications 
  • Students learn to make new and lasting friendships with classmates as well as locals in the communities they’re living in.
  • Key life lessons are learned in the background like team-building, self-discipline, social awareness, and intellectual curiosity
SMCS International Summer Academy students


A typical weekday schedule would involve four hours of class instruction, and 90 minutes of tutorials. The rest of the day is spent exploring historical landmarks and touring cultural sites.

“I was amazed by the history of the Vatican,” says Maximillian, reflecting. “I was in awe of the Sistine Chapel due to the time and effort Michelangelo must have put into this masterpiece. The most surprising fact I learned during the tour was that Benito Mussolini signed Vatican City into existence.”

Trentadue says the ISA was developed in 2012 as “a response to the ever-increasing number of online university offerings and globalization, and to pay greater attention to the inherent advantages of an international setting.”

SMCS Guidance Department


The 2020 ISA courses offered are:      

International Business Fundamentals 
BBB 4MS, Grade 12, University/College - Italy 

Interdisciplinary Studies in Conservation Biology 
IDC 4US, Grade 12, University/College - Dominica

“These are credit courses, academically rigorous and they are accepted at Canadian universities, as well as all over the world,” says Trentadue. “All credits are applied toward the St. Michael's College School diploma and taught by St. Michael's teachers. Having a completed Grade 12 credit course prior to beginning Grade 12 can be a benefit to students as they prepare for their final year of high school with aspirations of moving to university.” 

“The Summer Academy is intended for young people filled with an academic curiosity who wish to explore beyond the confines of a traditional classroom.”

Learn more about the SMCS International Summer Academy

Visit the Guidance Department for a registration package.