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Dr. Mea Ahlberg is captivated by cultures. You could say that they’ve been her life’s work.


“I love the interaction with people of different backgrounds and cultures,” Ahlberg said. “Other cultures always fascinate me. There is always something new you can learn from a different culture. Even my dissertation is on cultures and development.”


Ahlberg received her doctorate from the University of Texas at Dallas and has done extensive research on cultures and development. She joined the Dallas International School staff in 2008 as the director of admissions, a post she still retains. Besides working at DIS, she serves as a faculty member at Collin College where she teaches policy and economics. Ahlberg’s background is as diverse as the many families she helps through the admission process into the school. She loves being able to witness first-hand the growth of all students.


“When the day is stressful, it is a privilege to just step out of your office and look at the children, and everything is fine,” Ahlberg said. “Nothing else matters. It’s very easy to de-stress yourself and watch the children play. They are simple and peaceful. We should look up to them to learn to be that way.”


Ahlberg’s own two children are in CP and CM1, respectively, and they share the same enthusiasm for the school as their mother does.


“They enjoy it so much,” Ahlberg said. “I know that when every morning they’re excited to go to school. And you constantly hear that they love their school. It’s the only school they know.”


Ahlberg’s deep connection with the cultural mission of the school has helped propel her to new heights in her career. She recently was invited to be a keynote speaker at a conference held by the Admissions Group of the French American Schools (AGFAS) in New Orleans. The directors of admissions of the French American Schools across North America were in attendance. Ahlberg’s presentation focused on strategic enrollment management.


“It’s really about working in the most efficient way with what you have available,” Ahlberg said. “The admissions office is the entry and exit of the school. It’s the gateway to the school. A working admissions office can be a key component to the success of the school.”


While efficiency is key to a director who interacts with every family that comes and goes at DIS, so too is equality. It’s a rule that Dr. Ahlberg lives by.


“To have a well-functioning organization we have to be fair and adhere to the policies and rules that are effective and have been put in place with the best intentions in mind,” Ahlberg said. “That can help support the goal and the mission of the institution. It helps create the cohesiveness that makes an institution successful. It doesn’t matter where you come from. We stick to policies and fairness.”

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No one expected them to be there, on that soccer field, in that championship match. Not even the players themselves.


“We didn’t think we even had a team, honestly,” said Sebastian Gray, a midfielder. “We lost eight seniors from last year. We had one senior and two sophomores. We were kind of a slapped together team.”


This from the guy who scored the sudden-death overtime winning goal in the semifinal match to send his team to their first ever TAPPS state championship game. No, the Dallas International School Tigres were not picked by many to win the high school fall state championship, but they did, rewriting the history of the school that many of the players had studied at since they could walk.


“I feel like our biggest strength was our chemistry,” said Giovanni Barbosa, a forward on the team. “We’ve always had good chemistry. Some of us have been together for a really long time. Sebastian and I have played on the same team since first grade.”


Alex Gassin, the team’s goalkeeper, agreed.


“The most important thing that got us to the final was the chemistry with each other,” Gassin said. “Even the people that we haven’t known for a long time, we became good friends. The small school helped with that. We know how everyone else plays.”


That chemistry and camaraderie drove everyone to stick together through some early-season struggles. Not only had the team lost most of its experienced players from the previous season, but the focus and organization needed in a championship team was lacking in the first few practices and games.


“Some of us were new, and some had played together for the past few years,” said right back Chase Fitzpatrick, a newcomer to the team. “There were only two small practices at the beginning of the season, so it was a bit hard to get on the same page.”


“We never really got to practice it felt like,” said Julian Greil, a defenseman. “It wasn’t really organized.”


But despite the rough-and-tumble start to the season, the wins began to come. That harmony that each player raved about shone through, and the scoreboard testified at the end of each contest that something was going right.


“I think we realized just how good we could be after we lost to Bethesda,” Barbosa said. “We could have beat them. That was our toughest competition, but we felt like we could beat them, even though we lost 4-2.”


Bethesda Christian School would later be the recipient of the Sebastian Gray golden goal in the semifinals. But we’re not there yet.


“Other than Bethesda, we were consistently winning games,” said forward Emma Stringer. “We realized, hey, maybe we aren’t so bad.”


The Tigres rode that wave of unexpected competence all the way to the state tournament, where they had been before, but had often trekked home early after a first-round exit. This time, the team decided it wasn’t going to be enough just to make the tournament, collect their ribbon and hop on the bus.


“The fact that we were going to lose never went through my head,” Barbosa said. “I always had the thought that we were going to win it all.”


“We always had the mentality of ‘when we win,’” Gray said. “Our teachers and other people kept saying ‘well, if you win’ and we said, ‘no, when we win.’ We never doubted.”


Gray’s header into the back of the net sunk Bethesda in the semifinals. The 3-2 final in the championship match against Kingsville Pan-Am was perhaps not quite as thrilling, but it was much more historic. When the final seconds ticked down on the Tigres’ first-ever championship, the entire team sprinted aimlessly onto the field, delirious with joy and, perhaps, just a little bit of disbelief.


“I couldn’t believe that we actually did it,” said Omar Ashour, the lone senior on the team. “It was my first year, and I couldn’t believe that we could actually win it all. No one expected us to do it. But here we were.”


Pictures were taken of each team member receiving their championship medal. The man with the privilege of bestowing each of them with their prize is the same man whom the players credited as “the real MVP” of the season: Coach Sergio Franklin.


“I’ll tell you this,” Greil said. “No one wanted to disappoint Coach Sergio. No one.”


“He’s been a coach who has supported us throughout the season,” Fitzpatrick said.  “He knew how good we could be, which is why he was so hard on us.”


The DIS Tigres’ 2016 soccer season was sometimes frustrating, occasionally promising and ultimately exhilarating. They were a gumbo of personalities, positions and backgrounds, but they came together to shock the state and bring home the first-ever championship trophy to campus. Now, only one goal remains.


“I want our legacy to be remembered,” Fitzpatrick said

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Cody Gelbrich is no stranger to adversity. He’s had some tough breaks, but he manages to maintain a smile while chatting about his somewhat bumpy road to one of the top universities in Germany.


“I really struggled to get into university,” said Gelbrich, who now studies economics at Humboldt University of Berlin. “It was really hard for them to accept my diploma.”


Gelbrich and his family are originally from Germany, but moved to Dallas when he was young. After spending every summer in Berlin, he decided that he wanted to return to his homeland for university after he graduated from Dallas International School. He had no idea that he would have to wait years to get in. But he kept a positive attitude.


“I really learned that from nothing comes nothing,” Gelbrich said. “You can’t be negative, because nothing will come of it.”


While his transition from high school to college was anything but smooth, Gelbrich maintains that he lived a charmed life while studying at DIS.


“I went to [another high school] before DIS,” Gelbrich said. “I loved being at DIS so much more. I loved the IB program, because it was much more long-term and there were a lot less grades, which is exactly like in university.”


Gelbrich also enjoyed the global mindset that his classmates had at DIS, something that he said was lacking in his previous school.


“People here have great summer experiences,” Gelbrich said. “When I would come back to school, they would talk about how they went to Italy or France. At my other high school, they didn’t even know where some of those places were. It blew my mind.”


Gelbrich said that the main differences between DIS and Humboldt are the amount of grades and academic supervision.


“One of the biggest differences is the only thing I have at university is the exam at the end of the semester,” Gelbrich said. “It’s all or nothing—no projects and no essays. There’s not even any roll call. So I think going to DIS helped prepare me for that.”


Gelbrich would like to work for a German airline once graduates. His one piece of advice to DIS students? Never give up.


“It doesn’t matter how long it takes you as long as you get it done,” Gelbrich said, with a smile.

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Courtney Mawet’s reminiscing. Ask her about her recent trip to Spain, and the 9th grader won’t be able to contain her excitement as she remembers her favorite moments.
“We visited the Alhambra in the south of Spain,” Mawet said. “It was really beautiful to see because it’s this huge fortress and castle overlooking the city. It’s really old and we studied it in Spanish class last year. We were just running around and taking pictures.”
Mawet, along with classmates Clair McFadden and Tristan Stock, recently returned stateside from a five week foreign exchange trip to one of Dallas International School’s sister institutions, Lycee Francais Murcia in Murcia, Spain. DIS students have the option in 9th and 10th grade to participate in the school’s foreign exchange program, which began last year. Spain and Italy are popular destinations, but students have few limits on where they can go.
“The point of this program is to show students that the MLF [Mission Laique Francais] is a network,” said Dr. Francois Pave, the head of secondary at DIS and the overseer of the foreign exchange program. “They can find that curriculum anywhere in the world. We have a student who wanted to go to Asia, so we arranged with our sister school in Taiwan for them to visit. We sent one to Lebanon as well.”
Fourteen students participated this year, and many of them came home with a greater appreciation of a culture that they had perhaps studied in class, but never experienced in a personal way.
“My favorite part was getting to know the new people,” McFadden said. “They acted differently. They would eat way later in the day. They weren’t rude. They were nice. They were very welcoming and everything.”
Each student stays with a host family in their country of choice and attends the MLF school closest to their location. Since the curriculum is the same throughout the world, they don’t have any trouble staying engaged in the classroom, despite their new surroundings.
“I think DIS prepared us really well for all of it,” Mawet said. “We already knew what they were covering, even in math class.”
While Stock enjoyed his time at school in Murcia, he was much more interested in the extracurricular activities the city had to offer.
“I went to a concert there,” Stock said. “It was my first concert and I really liked it. I rode a motorcycle for the first time in my life. They even have an American football team at the school in Spain, which was awesome.”
DIS also participates in the other side of the program, accepting students from other countries who wish to study and live in Dallas for a semester. Beatrice Fabbri traveled from her home in Florence, Italy to take advantage of that opportunity.
“I love it here,” Fabbri said. “I went to my first American football game with one of my friends when SMU played TCU. I didn’t really understand everything that was going on on the field, but the atmosphere was really fun. There were lots of people screaming.”
Fabbri also loves the sense of community that she’s experienced at DIS.
“In my school in Florence, it’s only school,” Fabbri said. “We never had enough time to hang out, because we are just focused on academics. I love having a soccer team here and stuff like that. I’ve learned here to have a social life and dedicate more time to myself.”
Each student also found out that living in a different country doesn’t come without challenges.
“It’s kind of weird living with people you’ve never met before,” McFadden said. “There was no English. Also, I really missed pizza rolls and ice cream.”
Fabbri hasn’t had any trouble communicating with her host family and classmates, as she already knew English before coming to Dallas. But she agrees that adjusting to a new country’s food can be rough.
“The food is totally different,” Fabbri said. “It’s delicious, but I’m having trouble eating well. I’m used to eating more fruits and vegetables.”
These globetrotters all had the same piece of advice for other students preparing to take their trip: be brave.
“Don’t just stay in your room and just watch Netflix,” Stock said. “When you’re there you should just go out and have fun, even if you don’t feel comfortable. Just try going out to the city, or wherever, even if it seems scary.”
That, Pave said, is what the foreign exchange program is all about.
“The DIS classes are really small, so students want to discover something else,” he said. “For them, it’s a way to open their mind. They are very happy to see a different way of living.”
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The first thing that you notice when you walk into the courtyard of the Churchill Way campus of Dallas International School is the color. Not only are there vibrant play structures and buildings, but the northwest corner houses a huge mural that is a veritable rainbow. Visitors admire the whimsical characters and scenes that are depicted, but beneath the paint lies a vast number of educational opportunities for the students of DIS.

“Before the mural was painted, all the walls on that side of the school were white,” said Yohanis Mibrathu, director of preschool at DIS and the overseer of the mural project. “They were boring. We decided that we wanted to use those walls as a pedagogical tool.”

Initially, the plan was to paint numerous words on the wall so that students could enhance their vocabulary. But then bigger ideas began to surface.

“We started talking to different artists, and the one thing we told them is that the wall has to be interactive,” Mibrathu said. “One of the artists came up with the idea of using magnetic paint. The students could use magnets and change it based on the topic that they were working on.”

School administration loved the idea and the project began. There was only one problem. The artist, Jelena Opacic, had planned to move to California before the project would be finished. She knew she wouldn’t be able to complete the wall in time, so she sent out a call for help.

“We thought, why not organize some painting parties?” Mibrathu said. “So every weekend we would have painting parties and everyone came and painted. Complete strangers would stop by and help. We would start at 7:30 in the morning and go sometimes until midnight.”

Opacic would sketch the figures and characters on the wall and then assign colors to each section. Volunteers would simply paint in the assigned colors.

“It really became a community project,” Mibrathu said. “That was the most exciting part about it.”

Opacic left for California and the finishing touches were put on the project. Wherever shoelaces are depicted on characters, holes were punched in the wall and real laces were threaded through to help younger students learn to tie their shoes. A clear coat of paint was placed on the entire wall to protect it from weather damage.

Then, the administration let the kids have at it.

“Kids loved the colors, and they immediately wanted to touch them,” Mibrathu said. “Teachers would bring boxes of magnets for fractions or letters or whatever and use them to teach. They can draw up anything they want to teach on their computer and print it out on a magnetic sheet and use it.”

And it’s not just meant for fun and games. Mibrathu said the mural has helped the young students improve their cognitive skills immensely.

“Teachers are saying that it makes the kids verbalize,” Mibrathu said. “They ask questions. They want to speak about it. Sometimes you see kids gathering around it on their own and talking about it.”

The mural is now a hallmark of DIS, and it helps reinforce a well-known lesson about teaching children.

“Visual support is always better than the alternative,” Mibrathu said.

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The three students all smiled when asked what their favorite part of the junior-senior retreat was.


“My favorite was the scenery, especially at night,” said Alia Merritt. “Mainly the bonfire. One person was playing guitar and everyone was singing. You could actually see the stars out there. It’s not like Dallas.”


Merritt, an 11th grade IB student, was describing Lake View Camp and Retreat Center in Waxahachie, Texas, about an hour south of Dallas International School. All students in 11th and 12th grade participated in the retreat, which consisted of games, team-building activities, swimming and generally getting to know their classmates better.


Bilal Salih, an 11th grade FB student, loved the outdoor activities that everyone participated in together.


“Playing soccer at night on the lake,” Salih said. “That was definitely the best.”


“I liked the independence that we had,” said Diego De Orta, also an 11th grade IB student. “We were able to hang out all as a group. We are constantly separated by IB and FB, so it was fun to be with people that I didn’t know as well.”


High school students at DIS choose one of two baccalaureate tracks to pursue: French Baccalaureate (FB) or International Baccalaureate (IB). The two degrees necessitate different class schedules, and often, different social groups.


“Since we were all together the first day doing our own thing, it kind of brought us together,” Merritt said. “We would all see each other. We usually don’t get to do that in school.”


Caroline Wolfe, an 11th grade FB student, agreed.


“During class, we are super separated,” Wolfe said. “Just having those two days where we all came together was cool. We didn’t talk about school. We just came together and bonded.”


Sonja Greil, a 12th grade IB student, was attending her second retreat at DIS.


“This time the place was way bigger and the group was bigger,” Greil said. “I liked that we spent time together, especially on Tuesday at the pool. That was really fun. That was the time we actually got closer to other people.”


All in all, the students enjoyed the opportunity to socialize and get a short break from their hectic schedules, as they weren’t allowed to bring any homework along on the trip.


“We have a huge workload,” De Orta said. “There’s so much to do constantly, so it was good to just hang out.”


And as for the new juniors who will participate in their first retreat next year?


“Take advantage of the relaxation,” said Merritt. 

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Imagine if you finished your undergraduate degree in less than three years. Your friends are still in school. You have all the options in the world in front of you. What would you do?


For Danial Saiyid, a 2013 graduate of Dallas International School, the choice was easy. Go to Africa.


“I’m going to be working in Morocco with the Peace Corps as a youth asset builder,” Saiyid said. “I’ll be providing stuff such as English classes, resume building and other things so that people there have a better future.”


Saiyid recently graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in international political economy. When he first started college, he had some trouble figuring out what he wanted to do.


“For me, I still didn’t know after my first year what I wanted to do,” Saiyid said. “Not many people have a really set plan. But this is the direction that I want to go in.”


Saiyid said that his experience at DIS helped him make decisions about his future career while still in college.


“At DIS, I met people from so many different cultures and that gave me a taste to talk to someone from another country,” Saiyid said. “It definitely gave me a more globalized view. I feel very fortunate to have gone there and experienced that. It definitely influenced my major and what to do afterwards.”


While DIS helped shape Saiyid’s career path, he still noticed how his workload and study patterns changed once he got to college.


“The big thing with college is, when you’re given an assignment, there are no reminders,” Saiyid said. “At DIS, the teachers were a lot more involved to make sure you succeeded. There was a lot more work in college.”


Despite the changes, Saiyid was able to thrive during his time at UTD. His piece of advice for soon-to-be college students?


“It’s OK not to know exactly what you’re going to do,” Saiyid said. “Just take an active role in making sure you get your work done.”

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The Dallas International School boys and girls middle and high school cross-country teams competed in their first meet of the year at the renowned Garey Homer Invitational on Saturday, September 17th. It was the first time in the school's history to field a cross-country team at both the middle and high school levels. All of the runners performed well, and the following competitors placed in their respective races:

-Jordan Stock (7th grade): 1st place, girls 2 mile
-Emma MacGregor (8th grade): 4th place, girls 2 mile
-Bennett Chia (8th grade): 3rd place, boys 2 mile
-Marc Grisez (8th grade): 13th place, boys 2 mile

Congratulations to all our runners. Allez Les Tigres!

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As identical twins, Marie and Camille Prulhiere can be difficult to tell apart. It doesn’t help that they do virtually everything together.


The Prulhiere sisters graduated from Dallas International School (DIS) in 2014 and just finished their second year at the University of East London. Both Marie and Camille are studying business management with a specialty in marketing and both star on the school tennis team.


“It’s basically half school, half sport,” Camille said of her college experience. “It’s high-performance. They provide everything we need, like workshops, volunteering and our scholarship.”


The twins grew up in Toulouse, France and moved to Dallas at the age of 12. Marie recalled their feeling of apprehension before their first day of school at DIS.


“We knew almost no English,” she said. “But it was great because we learned fast and at the same time, we didn’t lose our French.”


They loved the tight-knit community at the school and the feedback they received from teachers. According to the twins, the biggest difference between DIS and university life is the amount of academic supervision.


“School-wise, you’re by yourself,” Marie said. “If you want to work, it’s up to you. The professors aren’t going to push you, because at the end of the day, you’re paying for your degree. They’ll help you, but they won’t push you.”


Camille said that DIS helped her get outside of her comfort zone when she got to college.


“DIS is a social bubble,” Camille said. “You just need to wait a bit and you’ll meet a bunch of people. I was scared to get out of the bubble. But eventually, you’ll like it. Everyone is in the same situation, so just introduce yourself.”


Of all the things they learned before moving on to college, Marie and Camille emphasized just three.


“Be open-minded,” Marie said. “Be organized. Meet people.”

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The crowd watched as the donors on stage twisted twelve shovels in the air, feigning a turn of the first scoop of dirt that would become the new sports area and outdoor plaza at Dallas International School’s upper campus, near the University of Texas at Dallas.


The ceremony was the centerpiece of a Saturday night of celebration, and was preceded by a reception to honor the contributions of select donors. The events were led by Bertrand Ferret, the school’s headmaster and CEO.


“The groundbreaking ceremony was an exciting way to celebrate the many improvements happening on both campuses, as well as launch the 25th anniversary of the school,” said Whitney Houston, the school’s director of advancement. “There was a buzz in the air and you could sense the excitement among all that attended.”


Everyone in attendance was treated to music, food and drinks as the annual welcome cocktail meshed together with the historic groundbreaking. The combination of events resulted in a palpable excitement in the room.


The sports area and plaza will feature a basketball court and play area.


“Saturday night was a big thank you to all of our supporters, parents and staff,” Houston said. “We want them to know that we appreciate all they do.”