The SYA Admissions Blog | High School Study Abroad

La Macchina di Santa Rosa

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Wed, Sep 2, 2015

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The Macchina of Santa Rosa is a celebration that happens in Viterbo, Italy each year in honor of Saint Rose, the patron saint of the city. 

The Macchina is a gorgeous structure made of steel, aluminum and fiber glass that stands nearly 30 meters tall. It weighs around five tons and is illuminated with 1200 lights decorated with 900 handmade textile roses and nine tall and delicate angels.

Each year on the evening of September 3rd, 100 men called “Facchini di Santa Rosa” hoist the Macchina and carry it though the streets and squares of the medieval center.

The event attracts thousands of people and is a very important celebration in Viterbo.

As SYA Italy is located in the heart of the medieval center, students are able to attend the event and participate this local significant experience alongside their host families. 

View a video from the 2014 celebration

Interested in learning more about SYA?! Click here for more info! 

 

Topics: SYA Italy

12 Facts About The Great Wall of China

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Wed, Sep 2, 2015

great-wall-china-beijinggreat-wall-china-beijing
  • The Great Wall of China is more than 2,300 years old.
  • It's main purpose was protection against attacks from Mongol invaders led by Genghis Khan. 
  • In December 1987 it was placed on the World Heritage List.
  • The official length of the Great Wall of China is 13,170 miles.
  • It is is the longest man-made structure in the world.
  • President Nixon made a visit to The Great Wall in 1972 in which increased the level of tourism.  
  • The Great Wall of China was not a continuous structure, however, it was a discontinuous network of walls built by various dynasties.
  • Contrary to what many believe, the Great Wall cannot be seen from the moon without aid.
  • Major rebuilding took place during the Ming Dynasty that began in the 14th century. Construction during this time was strong due to the use of stone and brick.
  • Earlier sections of the wall were made from stone, wood and compacted earth. 
  • The most famous section is Badaling. During the first week of May and October, the visitor flow can reach up to 70,000 people per day. This was the location where Nixon visited and was the finish site of a cycling course in the 2008 Summer Olympics. 
  • The historic structure is 25 feet high in some places and ranges from 15-30 feet wide. 



Topics: SYA China

Radio Host Helps SYA France Student Fund Trip

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Mon, Aug 31, 2015


Jolisa Brown is a 16-year-old from Westminster School in Atlanta, GA who is part of SYA France class of 2016 with quite the inspiring story. 

If you were to take a quick glance at Jolisa's personal blog you clearly see that she has one thing on SYA_France_townhouseher mind: the life changing adventure that she's about to experience.

On September 3rd, Jolisa will be on her way to SYA France, where she'll study abroad for nine months, becoming fluent in a second language and immersing herself in all that France has to offer.

While she mentions that lodging and tuition are covered, she is using her initiative to creatively fundraise for her travel costs and spending money. 

Jolisa recently got the opportunity to appear on a local ATL radio station WAOK where she was able to talk about her upcoming junior year at SYA France.

At the end of the programming the radio personality Derrick Boazman pledged to support Jolisa financially each month while she's in France and another caller also offered her financial support. 

Take a look at Jolisa's story here.

Remember, there are all kinds of ways to finance your study abroad. Don't give up on your dreams to see the world, get creative in how you can make it happen. 

Best of luck to Jolisa on her upcoming year! We're happy to have you as part of the SYA France class of 2016. 

Topics: SYA France

The Benefits of Studying Abroad | SYA Staff Spotlight #4

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Thu, Jul 2, 2015

In past blogs, we have written about why you should study abroad in high school. In this blog, we explore how studying abroad with SYA helps prepare you for future success in both college and beginning your professional career. A recent study from the University of California released a statistic that 97% of students enrolled in study abroad programs are more prone to find jobs within 12 months of graduation, compared to 49% of college graduates in the same period. 84% of students in the same study reported that they felt studying abroad helped them build valuable skills for the job market.

Keeping those statistics in mind, did you know that here at the home office of School Year Abroad, several staff members were either SYA alums or studied abroad in college? Read this SYA Staff Spotlight on Registrar and College Counseling Coordinator, Whitney, as she discusses her high school year abroad with SYA in Spain'85, and how it helped prepare her for college and a career after college. Hermann_Whitney

1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us when your first studied abroad? 
My name is Whitney Shugrue Hermann, and I am an alum of the class of Spain '85. I've had many jobs at SYA since 2001, but I am currently working in the Academic Office as Registrar and College Counseling Coordinator.

2. How did you make the decision to study abroad with SYA?
My decision to spend a high school year abroad may not have been the most traditional, but it was in fact my mother who really encouraged me to do SYA. I had been at same school since third grade, so I was in a good position to try something different for a year.

3. What is a favorite memory learned from your year with SYA?
I hadn’t felt particularly confident in my ability to learn a language in the traditional classroom before doing SYA. I was so happy and proud to discover that I was in fact very capable of learning a language!

4. What was the greatest lesson you took away from your year with SYA?
Sometimes you need to get outside of your “world” (gerbil cage) to discover important things about yourself, like new talents and new interests.

5. Did you study/travel abroad after SYA? During or after college?
In college and in graduate school…and then working with SYA!

6. How did SYA help you prepare for that experience?
It took the fear out allowing me to have each and every one of those experiences. I will never get over how many peers (adults in their 40s!), looked at me incredulously when I said I was moving over to Italy with my family for the year. Most couldn’t believe I was putting my son into a local school. You could tell the general idea appealed to their romantic side – living in Europe for the year, but they were paralyzed with fear about making such a change in their lives.

7. Do you feel that SYA helped better prepare you for college and the beginning of your professional career?
Yes, yes…SYA made me into the person I am.

8. What is a piece of advice you’d give to a prospective SYA student? 
Stop torturing yourself with all the reasons why “you can’t” do it or why it would be hard or what you’d miss. Life is full of choices, we are always going to miss out on something in order to experience something else. It’s not about what you may miss out on, it’s about what you could gain by going. It’s what you’d miss out on if you didn’t go. And as much as we all hate this expression, it’s true: the harder the experience, the more you get out of it.

Topics: high school study abroad, benefits of learning a second language

The Benefits of Studying Abroad | SYA Staff Spotlight #3

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Thu, Jul 2, 2015

In past blogs, we have written about why you should study abroad in high school. In this blog, we explore how studying abroad with SYA helps prepare you for future success in both college and beginning your professional career. A recent study from the University of California released a statistic that 97% of students enrolled in study abroad programs are more prone to find jobs within 12 months of graduation, compared to 49% of college graduates in the same period. 84% of students in the same study reported that they felt studying abroad helped them build valuable skills for the job market.

Keeping those statistics in mind, did you know that here at the home office of School Year Abroad, several staff members were either SYA alums or studied abroad in college? Read this SYA Staff Spotlight on Assistant Director of Admissions, Tonada, as she discusses her high school year abroad with SYA in Spain in 2009, and the benefits a year abroad with SYA offered her. 

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My name is Tonada Koch, I studied abroad in Zaragoza, Spain with SYA my junior year of high school, in 2008-2009. I am currently working for SYA as an Assistant Director of Admissions. I decided to study abroad with SYA because I fell in love with the idea of taking an adventure and becoming fluent in Spanish, and I heard that SYA was the best program for studying abroad. My favorite places I traveled to were the northern region of Spain, specifically The Basque Country, and Barcelona. One of my favorite memories is traveling to the south of Spain to visit the Alhambra, an incredible work of architecture and history that we had been learning about in my Art History course. It was amazing to make a connection between wheat we had done in the classroom and a building over a thousand years old. The greatest lesson I took away from my experience in Spain was to have confidence in myself and to appreciate and respect other cultures and other people.  I loved my experience with SYA so much that I went back to Spain in college for a semester, and I plan to go back in the coming years. SYA prepared me to be able to fully enroll at the University of Alicante, taking all of my courses in college level Spanish, and allowed me to make lasting friendships. I truly know that SYA helped me prepare for college, and more importantly for a life as an adult. If I could give a perspective student a piece of advice, I would say take a chance on yourself, no one else has the ability to change the way you see the world

Topics: high school study abroad, benefits of learning a second language

The Benefits of Studying Abroad | SYA Staff Spotlight #2

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Thu, Jul 2, 2015

In past blogs, we have written about why you should study abroad in high school. In this blog, we explore how studying abroad with SYA helps prepare you for future success in both college and beginning your professional career. A recent study from the University of California released a statistic that 97% of students enrolled in study abroad programs are more prone to find jobs within 12 months of graduation, compared to 49% of college graduates in the same period. 84% of students in the same study reported that they felt studying abroad helped them build valuable skills for the job market.

Keeping those statistics in mind, did you know that here at the home office of School Year Abroad, several staff members were either SYA alums or studied abroad in college? Read this SYA Staff Spotlight on Assistant Director of Admissions, Matt, as he discusses his high school year abroad with SYA in Spain in 2003, and how it helped prepare his for college and a career after college. 

1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us when your first studied abroad? Levinson,_Matt1
My name is Matt Levinson, I am an alum of SYA Spain Class of 2008, and I am currently an Assistant Director of Admissions here at SYA.

2. How did you make the decision to study abroad with SYA?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had an SYA admissions representative come to my Spanish class. I don’t remember what she said nor do I particularly remember the presentation. What struck me was the feeling of wonder and curiosity at the idea of leaving my safe, comfortable, suburban life behind and exploring the world. I went home that day and I asked my mom if I could apply. She was a bit dumbfounded that I wanted to do something like this but she gave me permission. Three months later, I got my letter of acceptance in the mail and I was off and running.

3. What was the favorite places you traveled to while abroad with SYA?
My favorite place in Spain was probably Ronda, a small city in the South of Spain. The setting is breathtaking, a city sitting atop two plateaus connected by a bridge overlooking rolling green hills and olive orchards in the valley below. 

4. What is a favorite memory from your year with SYA?
My favorite memory from my year with SYA was when I had my family come out and visit during Christmas break. During Christmas lunch, my host family, my real family and I all ate lunch together. What made it so interesting was the fact that no one in the room, except for myself, spoke both languages and so there I was, at 16 years old, translating for the whole table! That memory really defined what SYA meant to me; the opportunity to connect people across language, culture and distance to come to the understanding that we really aren’t all that different from one another.

5. What was the greatest lesson you took away from your year with SYA?
Make the most of the moment.

6. Did you study/travel abroad after SYA? During or after college?
Yes, I’ve travelled a decent amount since I left SYA through vacation and travel for work. I returned to Spain in college when I lived in Barcelona for a semester. I took the opportunity to see my host family again!

7. How did SYA help you prepare for that experience?
When I arrived in Barcelona, I already felt like a pro. I knew what I was doing, spoke the language and immediately made an effort to connect with the people around inside and outside of my program. 

8. Do you feel that SYA helped better prepare you for college and the beginning of your professional career?
Of course! SYA gave me perhaps a broader worldview than some of my peers, which helped me have a unique perspective to the things I studied in college. It also influenced my decision to attend a college focusing on internationalism as well as my course of study once I got there.

9. What is a piece of advice you’d give to a prospective SYA student? 
Always be open to new things and new experiences!

Topics: high school study abroad, benefits of learning a second language

High school study abroad & your college essay

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Thu, Jul 2, 2015

In today’s increasingly competitive world of college admissions, you need your personal essay to stand out. Fortunately, your high school study abroad experience at SYA will help you do just that. In this blog post, you'll read advice from SYA alums, college counselors and English teachers on how to approach your essay and incorporate elements of your SYA experience.

italy_client_selects-6Preparing Your College Application

In the spring, high school juniors at SYA begin to prepare their applications for college admissions. There are many reasons why SYA students tend to be very successful in standing out in college application pools that are overflowing with qualified students.Click here to view the top colleges and universities SYA alums have gone on to attend. For starters, they begin the essay writing process early and with help from their SYA college counselor, advisor, English teacher and senior classmates who’ve already gone through the process. Many SYA students also differentiate themselves from their peers back home by using their study abroad experience as the focal point of their essay. 

Advice From Admissions Officers

College admissions officers will tell you that the essay is the part of the application they scrutinize most closely. The prompts vary from school to school but they all strive to achieve the same purpose; to draw out your personality and your particular story that sets you apart from other students in terms of what you offer to a college community. Your response is your chance to make an impression beyond your grades and test scores.      

According to William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Harvard College, "Many students write about their SYA experiences in their essays or talk about them in interviews and there is no question that the added perspective and maturity gained from SYA can be a real plus to some candidates."

Advice from SYA Alums

A common element that emerges in many SYA students’ essays is a story that shows how they, through a combination of classroom and experiential learning, learned the language and culture of their host country in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of themselves. 

Current Assistant Director of Admissions, SYA Spain '09 alum and a graduate of Lewis and Clark College, Tonada Koch, wrote her college essay on her experiences at SYA. Said Tonada, "When it came time to write my college essay I was surprisingly confident. I had just returned from my year with SYA Spain, and I was fueled with inspiration and confidence in what I wanted from my college education. I wrote about a trip I had taken with SYA to the north of Spain, visiting little towns tucked away in the mountains." Said Tonada, "I was speaking, eating, laughing, and breathing in Spanish. I understood and connected with the history of the places we visited, and spoke about my host family’s ancestry in these places. I know that my SYA experience influenced the college process because I had several interviews and meetings with admissions staff on the phone and in person that all brought up my essay, diving into the unique perspective I offered.” 

Final Thoughts

A good essay could demonstrate how you’ve grown and learned about how you learn. Carolyn Hilles-Pilant, a former college counselor at SYA China, says, "‘Sincerity and Clarity’ are my watchwords, usually showing something you have learned from an experience or challenge." Colleges are looking for evidence of your self-knowledge.

The best advice, however, has to do with the process of writing the college essay, not its content. Spend time on it! Write several drafts, allow some time between them and have trusted readers edit them. Take time to really reflect on your experiences and turn those into an interesting and unique essay.  Steve Allen,a former English teacher at SYA Italy, advises, “If anyone is looking for the greatest tricks, starting early, revising just a little bit each time out, being honest, and not pretending to be honest seem the best procedures to me."

Watch Briana H., France '15 alum and our 2014-15 Halsey Scholar, speak about her decision to attend SYA France, and her experience applying to colleges from abroad in the video below. For more information on how SYA helps boost student's college essays visit the website here
 

Topics: high school study abroad, college

The Benefits of Studying Abroad | SYA Staff Spotlight

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

In past blogs, we have written about why you should study abroad in high school. In this blog, we explore how studying abroad with SYA helps prepare you for future success in both college and beginning your professional career. A recent study from the University of California released a statistic that 97% of students enrolled in study abroad programs are more prone to find jobs within 12 months of graduation, compared to 49% of college graduates in the same period. 84% of students in the same study reported that they felt studying abroad helped them build valuable skills for the job market.

Keeping those statistics in mind, did you know that here at the home office of School Year Abroad, several staff members were either SYA alums or studied abroad in college? Read this SYA Staff Spotlight on Assistant Director of Admissions, Jamaica, as she discusses her high school year abroad with SYA in France in 2003, and how it helped prepare her for college and a career after college. 

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1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us when your first studied abroad?
My name is Jamaica, and I am a member of the SYA France class of 2003. I now work as the West Coast Assistant Director of Admissions at SYA.

2. How did you make the decision to study abroad with SYA?
I initially decided to study abroad because a friend of mine was applying and suggested that we both go to France together. However, she was not admitted to SYA and I was. I almost chose not to go because she was not going. She asked me, “Would you really miss out on a life changing opportunity because I can’t go with you?” Over a decade later I am immensely grateful for that bit of wisdom.

3. What was the favorite places you traveled to while abroad with SYA?
Following a class trip to Paris, a friend and I returned to explore independently during Spring Break. The experience was incredible. We spent afternoons attending free concerts, navigated the Paris subway, and picknicked in Luxembourg garden.

4. What is a favorite memory learned from your year with SYA?
During my first few weeks in France I wondered when my host mother would prepare a “regular” breakfast of eggs and pancakes. One day I finally realized that my “regular” breakfast was, in fact, an American breakfast. This was a very small change in my thinking, but it ricocheted. I finally came to understand that “regular” was relative, and I became ready to embrace the idea that my way of life was not a universal standard.

5. What was the greatest lesson you took away from your year with SYA?
The greatest lesson that I took away is that we are all more alike than we are different. During my days in France everything felt foreign and unfamiliar. Soon, I was the member of a family that looked nothing like me and literally spoke a different language. However, our aspirations and motivations were the same. We cared about our families, valued growth and education, and appreciated a good joke!

6. Did you study/travel abroad after SYA? During or after college?
I believe that SYA gives you wings. After my year abroad sitting still was no longer an option! I have traveled extensively since my year at SYA. My favorite destinations thus far include beautiful Antalya in Turkey and the quiet town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the eastern coast of Costa Rica.

7. How did SYA help you prepare for that experience?
I feel so fortunate to understand the difference between a tourist experience and a cultural immersion experience, and I can thank SYA for this. SYA taught me to approach new people, new cultures, and new experiences with respect and appreciation for how little I actually know. I travel with the goal of learning rather than taking.

8. Do you feel that SYA helped better prepare you for college and the beginning of your professional career?
Absolutely! I am a proud UC Berkeley graduate, but Berkeley is a huge school and can be difficult to navigate for a freshman student. However, after a year in France I had the confidence to ask questions and the resilience to overcome setbacks. I now have the amazing opportunity to do work I love—sharing my SYA experience with students at high schools throughout the region.

9. What is a piece of advice you’d give to a prospective SYA student?
This is your opportunity to make your life incredible. How could you pass that up?!

End of the year reflections | SYA France

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Fri, Jun 5, 2015

This post comes from Kailey K., a junior from Phillip's Academy Andover in Massachusetts. Read her last blog as she discusses her final thoughts on her year spent studying abroad in Rennes, France. 

No one can prepare you for a year abroad: no pamphlet will tell you enough, no blog post will accurately convey emotions, and no packing list will help you limit your suitcase. So, I will begin with the advice: the advice you have heard a million times and the advice I wish I had before.

IMG_0160Make the most of your SYA experience

For one: don’t spend your first three months afraid to explore. I waited all the way until December to finally start exploring the hidden allies, walking instead of taking the metro, and meeting local French people. Everyone warned me that nine months would pass too quickly and that time could never reverse itself. I, unfortunately, spent my first six months counting down the days and my last three months wishing I had another year. Teachers, family, and friends will warn you that time passes quickly and that moments must be cherished, but you will not realize this until the time is ticking away and the year is at a close. My biggest piece of advice is to create real relationships: bonds that will never cease. Hold fast to these people, because they will be the people you miss and the people who crowd your memories.

My favorite memories of SYA France

I cherish memories of the sweet spring sun that emerged between ubiquitous rain clouds and warm green tea gliding down my throat between bites of macaroons and cookies that my host mother brought home each day. I treasure the innocent screams of children as they played in the park below my host mother’s balcony and the evening meals we shared in springtime. Each night at eight the meteo showed on the television and a slight pause to an early meal would be afforded to watch these indiscriminate weather reports. On weekends I would enjoy the night air with friends and eat at local restaurants such as: Le Wok, Il Basilico, L’Hericot Rouge, Sushi Shop, and Le Gange. I would stroll the Rennes streets and perhaps wander into Parc du Thabor or through Sainte Anne. No one tells you to remember to take time for yourself. I spent my first six months worried about impressing people and becoming a part of my French family; I wish I had spent time doing not only that, but also growing into myself. The last three months were the best of my life. I am leaving France with at least ten French friends with whom I will remain in contact, with incredible American friends, with teachers who inspire me, and with a host mother that I have come to know as a second mother.

So my advice: learn to live in the moment. Independent travel with friends to places like Spain, Italy, Germany, or Paris. Meet people and gain relationships. Count on others for support, but also leave room for yourself. Fall in love with your host family, but if you don’t, don’t be afraid to change and to find a way to make yourself happy: that is the most important part. Collect memories. Eat good food. And when it all ends don’t be afraid to cry. I never cried before coming to France: not one tear. Nine months later I cried when I graduated, when I said goodbye to my friends, when I said goodbye to Mr. Brochu, and when I said IMG_0130goodbye to my host mom: all four times.

Saying goodbye for now 

I am currently in Paris and leave tomorrow, I am crushed to have to say goodbye. Over the past week I have been called fluent by multiple people as well as consistently forgotten the English equivalent of several French words: Speak French, I swear, it’s the only way to improve. 

You gain a family here in France and fall in love with a language. I’m sad to say goodbye and wish you all the best of luck. France has not seen the last of me.

Until next time France, it has been nothing short of incredible.

Topics: high school study abroad, SYA France

Traveling when you study abroad in high school | SYA Spain

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Fri, May 22, 2015

jennifer_seabolt_croppedJennifer Seabolt is one of our campus reporters currently attending SYA Spain. She is a junior who came to SYA from the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. She enjoys singing, dancing, yoga and exploring Spain. Read Jennifer's blog as she reflects on the types of travel she has done this year.

Where has this year gone? It seems like just yesterday I got on a plane in Boston and arrived in Spain, wondering what I had just gotten myself into. What I have done this year is incredible. I’ve been to four different countries, almost every autonomous community in Spain, and can make it through everyday life independently and happily. I have amazing new friends with whom I now have countless memories, and I’m not ready to leave them in a few weeks.
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Not your average Spring Break

As my traveling skills progressed, I kept growing more and more. I figured out how to travel out of the country with just two other people, find my way around a new city without Wi-Fi, and discover a new city willing to learn all about it. Spring break was the biggest independent travel that I’ve done this year. I went to Córdoba, Sevilla, Toledo, and Segovia. Since our break coincided with Semana Santa (Holy Week), it was amazing to be immersed in the Spanish culture. While some Semana Santa traditions appear strange due to American history, it was still amazing to stand in the streets of Córdoba watching the processions head toward the church. It was a moment in which I really felt like a part of the Spanish culture. I have that feeling of community a lot when I travel. My first independent travel was in November when I went to San Sebastian. I was still a tad insecure about the language, but it was the first time I felt independent and free, which probably makes this one of my favorite places. It was a defining moment not only in my SYA year, but also in my life as a whole.

Jennifer_Seabolt_SPAINTravel tips for future SYAers

One of my biggest pieces of advice for my past traveler self, as well as any future travelers is to let whatever happens happen. Don’t be too set in stone on what you want to do. Some of the best memories I have from travels, and just life in general in Zaragoza, are from spontaneous discoveries. Once when my friend and I were wandering around Valencia trying to get back to our hotel, we got lost twice and ended up in the exact same place. We ended up finding a really cool part of the city we would have never found if we hadn’t decided to try and walk back. It’s times like this, getting lost, not freaking out, and finding something better instead, that have really made my year.

Jennifer_Seabolt_3-1

SYA Capstone project

Despite all of my crazy adventures, I do actually go to school! To wrap up the year, we’re doing a Capstone project that consists of a final paper, a presentation, and having the opportunity to travel to the place that our project is based in. I’m lucky enough to go the beautiful cities of Girona, Figueres, and Cadaqués, and I’m studying how the art of Salvador Dalí reflects the psychology theories of Sigmund Freud. I’m so excited to see how it comes together. Psychology is something I’m really interested in, and to combine it with what I’ve learned in art class this year, along with being able to show the Spanish I've acquired is a great way to end this academic year.

I can’t choose the best part of this year. Saying one moment was my favorite would immediately be overruled by another, and then another. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve experienced this year, and I wish I had another nine months.

Topics: high school study abroad, SYA Spain