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Halifax middle school student ventures to seven foreign lands

Most children his age have never been outside of their state, let alone their own country. Khalil Richardson of Halifax, a sixth grader at Halifax County Middle School, has broken the mold having visited seven foreign countries by the age of 11. The countries he has visited include Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Peru, Israel, the Czech Republic and Canada.

Khalil began traveling with his grandfather, Dr. Percy Richardson, when he was in the second grade.  The first country he visited was Canada.

“Children need to understand people from different countries, languages and cultural norms of other countries, and the best way to learn that is to travel abroad,” Dr. Richardson said.

Khalil said he really enjoys going to different countries and experiencing the different lifestyles of people living in those countries.

His most recent journey was to Israel last October.

“I enjoy experiencing different cultures and environments as well as and seeing how people live in a foreign country. I enjoy seeing a very diversified group of people from what you see in rural America,” Khalil added.

To date his favorite experience has been a visit he and his grandfather took to the country of Peru.

“Peru is my favorite country,” Khalil said. “I got to go through the Amazon Rainforest and see all the animals in their natural habitat, while paddling down the Amazon River with Cayman crocodiles in a boat.”

While visiting Peru he and his grandfather visited the Peruvian capital of Lima and saw the Andes Mountains. They experienced a closer look at Machu Picchu, the most familiar symbol of the Incan empire and one of the most famous sets of ruins in the world.

Khalil has visited four European countries and has had a chance to experience a different form of government and see many famous landmarks.

“He had a chance to see how people live during communism on this trip to Eastern Europe. He had a chance to see Prague Palace, which is the largest palace in the world and where President Obama gave his first international speech,” Dr. Richardson said.

Khalil and his grandfather plan to visit Italy in March. He is looking forward to the new experiences this trip to Italy will bring.

“I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to seeing how people live, seeing some of the famous architecture and historical sites and, experience different modes of transportation.” Khalil said. “I’m interested in learning about the politics and the different ways others live, the economy, and how America is different from Italy.”

On his visit to Italy, Khalil will have a chance to see sites like the Coliseum, the Vatican, the leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. His grandfather hopes he will learn a lot from this experience also.

“I want him to understand the role of Italy as the once mighty Roman Empire and its role as the center of the world, its influence of Christianity, and hopefully he’ll have a better understanding of politics because he will see where Julius Caesar ruled Rome and where he died,” Dr. Richardson said. “He will have a chance to visit the Vatican and tour the famous Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, and the place where the Apostle Peter was crucified upside down, the jail in which the Apostle Paul was in prison and the famous Roman Coliseum that took 18,000 Jews to build and where they were tortured and killed for Roman entertainment.”

In addition to seven foreign countries, Khalil has traveled to all the states on the east coast from Maine to Florida and as far west as Detroit, Michigan.

“We travel extensively in the U.S. during the summer. He had a chance to have a global perspective as well as see the United States, and he can have a domestic perspective.” Dr. Richardson said.

Khalil and his grandfather are able to travel as much as they do because of his grandfather’s job.

“Its part of my job as coordinator of international education at Southside Virginia Community College,” Dr. Richardson said.

Having been to 35 countries himself, Dr. Richardson wanted to give his grandson the same opportunity.

“I wanted him to be a global citizen, and as a global citizen you’re responsible for the wellbeing of the people in the world. It makes him socially responsible and gives him a better understanding of global issues and how these global issues affect the United States, especially rural areas like Halifax County.”

Khalil said he has learned a lot from his experiences traveling, and he hopes to learn much more.

“I’ve learned about the different lifestyles, currencies, politics, the people you see, and the different modes of travel,” Khalil said.

“It helps to be a well-rounded individual with a global perspective, because they can appreciate America and its diversity as well as other countries and what they offer. Hopefully it will give him a sense of what he wants to do in life. It gives him a chance to talk to people in other countries he normally wouldn’t have been exposed to in a small area,” Dr. Richardson said. “Things he’s reading in a textbook he will have experienced it because he has firsthand knowledge.”

Dr. Richardson encourages other families to travel.

“I would encourage families, especially if they have children, to travel because education should not be looked upon as what you learn in a school setting but what you experience through travel. Traveling gives a child a better understanding of the world,” Dr. Richardson said.