The SYA Admissions Blog | High School Study Abroad

Exploring my Surroundings; From Madrid to Barcelona to Rome - Photos by Katie Bauer

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Fri, Feb 5, 2016

Katie Bauer comes to SYA from Episcopal High School in Virginia. She is currently a senior and a Campus Reporter at SYA Spain.View more of her photos here.

Photo_3.jpg        Royal Palace, Madrid.

Photo_5.jpg.      Barcelona Cathedral, Barcelona

Photo_11.jpg        Fountain of the Four Rivers, Plaza Navona, Rome.

Photo_12.jpg        Plaza Navona, Rome

Photo_14.jpg       Streets of Rome

Topics: SYA Spain

A Whiff of the New Year - A blog by Abby Eymontt

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Wed, Feb 3, 2016

Abby Eymontt comes to SYA from Carnegie Vanguard High School in Texas. She’s currently a senior and a Campus Reporter at SYA Spain. View more of her work here.

Happy New Year!  New year, new me, right?

2016 started off differently from my other U.S. New Year’s celebrations. My eight year old host sister, Emma shook me awake from my nap before the countdown began, so I would not sleep through the tradition of eating 12 grapes. As the television flashed images of the crowded Puerta del Sol in Madrid and Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza, I watched as Emma scrambled to grab little bowls and distributed them to the 10 of us squished together in the living space. The first seconds of the new year were quiet and intense in our household: everyone ate their grapes, following the timer on the screen while trying not to choke on the seeds.  With every grape came a wish for each month in the new year, one at each stroke of midnight.

The molding, aged cheese smell lingered in the air, reminding me of my last memories of 2015 when my yaya, or host grandmother, quickly reached for the handle to open the window, so we could breathe in some fresh air.  My host grandfather and younger sister left the dinner table to stick their heads out the window because of the awful smell.  Thankfully, my aunt sprayed Febreze all over the room to save us from our misery. The smelly situation definitely left us laughing and drew us to hypothesize over where the smell came from.  First, yaya went to check the pantry to make sure an aged cheese was not molding. This was not the case.  Eventually, my host uncle and cousin admitted to their prank:  they had sprayed stink spray in the room during our New Year’s Eve dinner!

Celebrating the New Year with my host family was especially worth every minute of the turron-eating*, grape-scarfing, powerful-smelling experience.  As I dive into my second semester at SYA Spain, I hope 2016 brings a year full of many more memorable experiences like these, ones that I will remember with overwhelming senses.

 *turron is the name of a typical Spanish candy made of honey, sugar, and egg

Topics: SYA Spain

A Winter Wonderland in Beijing - Photos by Jennifer Lu

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Tue, Feb 2, 2016

Xavier Sims wandering around the backstreets of 798.

Jared Rosen gathers his host family and American family together at the winter party.

Yumna Naqvi brings her mother to the winter party.

Sophia Hoenig poses with two of her Chinese teachers: Ding Laoshi and Tie Laoshi.

Ali Marouk-Coe and Hunter Parkhill at the winter party.

Ms. Becker congratulates Caleb Friends on his successful semester in SYA.

Erin Slichter performs a piece on the electronic keyboard.

Topics: SYA China

School Year Abroad and Beyond - A blog by Karen Ahn

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Mon, Feb 1, 2016

Karen Ahn comes to SYA from The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. She is currently a junior and a Campus Reporter at SYA Italy. Read more of her work here.

After flying all over Europe during an eventful break, returning to Italy has been like returning to my home. The first day I arrived a mia casa, my host mother, Maria, gave me a huge hug and cheek-kissed me the Italian way. Once we opened the door to our house, my two host siblings, Matteo and Veronica, sprang out seemingly from nowhere and tackled me with bear hugs, and I could not help but smile at how much I genuinely missed my little Italian family. At that moment, I thought of Viterbo as more of my home than my American home, and the memories of Christmas break were replaced with cherished moments with my host family.

Of course, that does not mean that I do not miss the wafting smell of crepes everywhere in Paris, the German chatter heard at the Viennese Christmas Markets, light and soft snow fluttering down in Budapest. Although my break was filled with lots of traveling, and the plan was not always followed exactly, I loved each moment of it; every day gave me new observations and self-discoveries, either mundane or revealing, and that’s precisely what I was looking to gain from Christmas Break.

I have realized over the break that I prefer crepes filled with caramel more than crepes with Nutella, noticed that Italian helps you guess some French (but does not help with German), and discovered many other aspects about the European world and my own affinities and traits. Throughout the course of the two weeks of break, however, I learned something about myself that I truly wanted to learn during my year in Europe: my passion.

With senior year approaching and still no clue about what I wanted to do after high school, my main goal for the year was to discover my passion and what I want to do in life. While I was on break, I constantly thought of languages and how fascinating they are to me. In Paris, every time I caught some understanding of French, I tried to piece together the structure of their phrases and got strangely over-excited whenever I succeeded. The same happened for German when we were in Vienna, and although Hungarian sounds nearly like what Egyptian hieroglyphics would be aloud, I was stupefied at how much I loved hearing Hungarians chatter among themselves. It was as if languages gave me a sense of drive and curiosity, and I know now that this is what I want to continue to study and learn more about.

The opportunity provided by SYA’s independent travel privilege have given me an incredibly transformative and enlightening break, including helping me discover a passion for language, and these various experiences will shape my life in School Year Abroad and beyond.

Are you ready to reach beyond the classroom? Start your SYA Italy application today:

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Topics: SYA Italy

A Little Bit of Everything from SYA Spain - Photos by Caroline Beltz

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Fri, Jan 29, 2016

Caroline Beltz comes to SYA from Charlotte Country Day School in North Carolina. She is currently a junior and a Campus Reporter at SYA Spain. View more of her photos here.








Topics: SYA Spain

SYA – Enhancing the Teaching of Global Studies

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Thu, Jan 28, 2016

Giuliana_Nicolucci-Altman.jpgGiuliana Nicolucci-Altman 

Giuliana Nicolucci-Altman, SYA France ‘16 and a junior from Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago, says that participating in the recent Model United Nations (MUN) conference was a, “life changing experience,” and enhanced her knowledge of the world in so many ways all while having fun! Giuliana was the only SYA France student who proposed a resolution that was passed.

Giuliana represented the Special Environmental Committee, or the committee designated to the COP21. “COP21” is shorthand for "Conference of the Parties 21,” which is the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The concept of COP21 is a fairly simple, countries from all over the world gather in Paris and try to decide the best way to keep all global warming below 2°C (35.6°F).

Giuliana and her committee were presented the following questions for which they needed to come up with solutions or resolutions:

  • How to put in place the objectives set out by the COP21?
  • The creation of a weighted tax on greenhouse gas emitting vehicles
  • The creation of an international sustainable plan for the exploitation of natural resources. 

Each student in the committee represents a country, or delegation, and works with other delegations to draft resolutions that are feasible, and that coincide with the desires of each country.Giuliana_Nicolucci-Altman_lobbying.jpg

“The process involves collaboration, writing, speech making, and compromising. The language barrier was an extra challenge,” Giuliana explained, “It was especially difficult, for example, to try to explain to the delegate of Japan why my resolution wouldn't hurt the global economy - in French. But in the end, all the SYA participants would say the hard work was worth the enriching experience.”

Resolutions - Passed!

Giuliana’s resolution was how the member states of the United Nations can achieve the goals set out by the COP21, including keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. “One of the first things that I had to do as the delegation from Denmark, was to research my own environmental policies, like for renewable energy, recycling, energy efficient public transport, etc,” she explained, “I found that Denmark was a leader in energy efficiency, so I started drafting my own resolution based on Denmark's policies, before even arriving at the conference.”

On the first day of lobbying, Giuliana showed her ideas to other delegations, some of whom agreed completely and many of whom had things to add to the document to make it work internationally. Then as a team, they rewrote and formatted the resolution as it is required to be: perambulatory clauses followed by numbered operative clauses. Her and her teammate from Istanbul went around the conference room, gathering enough signatures for the resolution to be accepted by the chair. 

 “As soon as it was accepted, I had to read the resolution in front of the entire committee. Afterwards, my voice probably cracking due to nerves, I gave a short speech in favor for it, and then had to accept questions.” She said, “You have to be prepared for the worst, because you have 50 other people in the room asking how you plan on funding clause X, or whether clause Y is really feasible in developing countries, etc. It's stressful, but also very exciting. It definitely gave me a lot of adrenaline.”

 After answering questions, other delegations made amendments, or edits to the resolution, and those were voted on. Some passed, some didn't, Giuliana partnered with Iran to change the date of carbon-neutrality. After all the amendments were made, the resolution got a final vote-- and passed!. 

Learning in action and meeting world wide friends

So, what was Giuliana’s favorite part of the experience? She explained it best herself:

 “The learning in action. This was my first Model U.N. conference, and I had no idea what to expect. All I had was my research, and five months worth of French immersion, and I was traveling to an international conference that would take place at the real United Nations in Geneva. I completely surprised myself; as soon as I sat in the conference room, I picked up on the formalities and vocabulary (for example to ask a question, you say "point of information"), and relished the lobbying and writing, so much so, that I proposed my own resolution, which was signed by 20 countries and got passed by the committee. It was also feeling the weight and importance of being trusted with the opinions and policies of an entire country. Yes, it's the United Nations for high school students, and none of the resolutions will change the world. Regardless, you get a sense of what it's like to make real change, because we know that we are the generation that will soon be making these decisions. I also loved staying with a host family! Though it was for only a few nights, it was lovely to get to know yet another family.”

Experiences like this stay with our students for a lifetime and truly allow them to become global citizens. They met other students their age from Morocco to Australia, Turkey to Senegal, and Martinique to the Ivory Coast, making new teenage friends from all over the world.  

“Even in the professional atmosphere of the conference we laughed, smiled at mistakes, became Facebook friends, and enjoyed the unique moment, knowing that these exact people will never be together again,” recalled Giuliana, “I miss the conference and its participants already; I've never experienced anything as amazing as being in a room full of high school students with the potential and intention to leave our world better than they found it.”

To learn more about SYA France, visit today!

Huangshan, China - Photos by Jared Rosen

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Tue, Jan 26, 2016

Jared Rosen comes to SYA from Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. He is currently a junior and Campus Reporter photograher at SYA China. View more of his work here. 

Below are photos taken in Huangshan, China. Huangshan is a mountain range in southern Anhui province in eastern China and well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, Huangshan pine trees, winter snow, and views of the clouds from above. Jared has captured the natural beauty of this area below. 










Are you interested in exploring the Chinese culture both modern and ancient? Start your SYA China application today:

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Topics: SYA China

Reflecting on mid-year at SYA - A blog by Danielle Kaye

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Mon, Jan 25, 2016

Danielle Kaye comes to SYA from Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, CA. She is currently a junior and a Campus Reporter at SYA France. Read more of her work here. Danielle also had the opportunity to participate in the FerMUN Conference that took place from Jan.13 -15, 2016 in Geneva (Pictured below). Amadi_Lasenberry-Essoka_and_Danielle_Kaye.jpg

It’s hard for me to believe that 2016 is already here. Before the New Year, I felt like I still had all the time in the world before the end of this school year. It seemed as though all 70 of us eager SYA France students had boarded the plane just moments ago, almost like no time had passed. But waking up on New Year’s Day and seeing the date on my phone, it suddenly hit me that the year is half way over. It wasn’t until 2016 actually arrived that I became aware of how fast time has flown by since the beginning of September.

Many students at SYA use the two weeks of winter vacation to spend time and travel with their families. My family and I explored Rennes and its surroundings, which was a great opportunity to get a better sense of the region that has become my home for the year. We rented a car to visit numerous villages in Brittany, as well as the coast of Normandy. For me, one of the most memorable parts of our time in northwestern France was when my real family met my host family over lunch during our first afternoon in Rennes. It was incredible to see two worlds collide. My life back home and my life in France, which had previously been completely separate in my mind, were suddenly together in the same space. Despite the stress of being a translator for two hours and the many communication difficulties, I felt so lucky throughout that afternoon. Looking around the table at the faces of my real family and my host family, I realized that I now have loving families on two different continents. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

Later on during the break, I went on to spend New Years with my family in Paris, where we relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company to bring in the New Year. We walked by the Eiffel Tower as it lit up the night sky for its final time in 2015, along with crowds of other Parisians and tourists. I can’t think of a better way to transition between my two calendar years here at SYA France, considering that the Eiffel Tower is such an important symbol for France as a whole.

Looking back on last year, I’m amazed by how far everyone in Rennes has come. We’ve created such a warm and supportive community together, and I’m looking forward to every moment that remains. I’ve already learned so much this year – with my host family, at school, and just exploring – but I know that there’s even more lying ahead in the coming months. Here’s to another year of surprises and adventures. Bonne année from SYA France!

Are you ready for a year of adventures? Start your SYA France application today! 

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Topics: SYA France

FerMUN 2016: The Change We Need | High School Study Abroad in France

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Wed, Jan 20, 2016

SYA France students, currently enrolled in the Political Science and Global Issues course, recently had the opportunity to travel to Geneva with instructor, Pascal Monteville to participate in the FerMUN Conference that took place from Jan. 13 -15, 2016.

Read Amadi Essoka-Lasenberry's blog about the three-day conference themed, ‘The Change We Need’.

Last week, from Tuesday until Saturday, eight SYA France students and our politics teacher hopped on a train to Geneva, Switzerland for a Model UN conference at the real United Nations in Geneva! It was an amazing experience to be able to be in such an international city and to meet so many students from all around the world. My friend Danielle and I were representing the small west African country of The Gambia in the African Union where our discussions topics were combating the two terrorist groups Al Shabaab and Boko Haram. It was really interesting to have a take on the place of the countries we were representing and try to be able to forget about our own opinions when discussing those of our country. After three days of intensive researching, discussions, and creating resolutions about serious world issues, we finished the week by collaborating with the Arab Union and NATO in order to work together on the broader topic of combating worldwide terrorism.UN_photo_edited.jpg

We were able to meet people from Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Turkey and across Europe discussing issues that affect us all no matter where we come from in the world. After the conference we learned that all the resolutions we wrote during the conference were going to be sent to real delegates of the UN to see what some of our ideas were. During the conference, one the the chairpeople said something that stuck with me: "What would the world be like if we listened to the ideas of young minds uncorrupted by greed and honestly looking for the best way to help change the world?" The fact is that one day, some of us who were there may become real ambassadors discussing the same world issues and that it is really our choice to remain as honest as possible in our fight to make this world a better place.

Danielle and I were staying with a Swiss-Italian host family who had a son our age, who was also participating in the Model UN conference. After each day we had some spare time where he would take us on a walk around the city to meet some of his friends who all spoke so many languages, which seemed necessary living in a city with people from all over the world. After the conference, Danielle and I were fortunate enough to be able to stay an extra night and have time to walk around the city the next day by ourselves. She has American family friends who live on Lake Geneva right outside of the city who offered to let us spend the night! It was absolutely gorgeous waking up to snow capped mountains and a light flurry of snowflakes landing delicately on the water outside of our window. We only had a few hours on the last night in Geneva before we had to catch our train back to Rennes, but it was enough to fall in love with the city.

I am so thankful that I had this opportunity. I hope one day I will be able to return to Geneva for longer because it was such an amazing voyage.

Are you interested in becoming a global student? Start your SYA application today: 

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Topics: SYA France

Parents Learn More About High School Study Abroad

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Thu, Jan 14, 2016

Recently, we sat down with two Admissions Representatives and the Admissions Marketing Manager for a Google+ Hangout where we invited the parents of students who have applied, or are thinking of applying to SYA. 

This interaction allowed us to inform parents about our schools in Italy, Spain, France and China and the life-changing experience their child will have while abroad. 

Lauren Jerr, Associate Director of Admissions and Donna Fitzgerald, Assistant Director of Admissions and also the parent of an SYA China alum, were able to answer parent FAQs and give their expertise on the program. Plus, having Donna, we were able to give first-hand parent feedback. 

Below are some of the highlights from the video!

:50 – Overview of School Year Abroad (SYA). 
2:20 – What makes SYA so unique.
4:55 – The Host Family process at SYA.
8:00 – Donna talks about how her daughter has been back to visit her host family several times since her experience at SYA.
9:40 – Extracurriculars at SYA.
13:30 – 20:00 – College
• How your child will stay on track with college applications while abroad.
• How SYA can really add texture to your college applications and essays.
• Can SYA teachers write your child’s college recommendations?
• Do colleges asses the application any differently if students go abroad their senior year?
20:10 – Travel abroad. What different kinds of traveling your child will be doing at SYA.
24:27 – Donna discusses how she felt as a parent when her daughter told her she wanted to study abroad in China for a year of high school. 
26:00 – Talking points/how to discuss going abroad with your school.
26:45 – How SYA influenced Donna’s daughter's life in terms of college and career.
28:57 – How much contact do you have with your Host Family before going abroad?
33:28 – How well does SYA know the Host Family that your child will be staying with?
36:19 – How much your child will be interacting with the culture on a daily basis.
38:43 – Your child’s safety abroad at SYA.
40:54 – The concept of your child’s Capstone project abroad.
42:54 – How much writing do the students do in the target language?
45:24 – Science classes offered abroad.
46:40 – Medical insurance and how illness is handled while abroad. 
49:47 – Can students organize trips outside of their host countries?
50:00 – A brief overview of our brand-new Italy science course!
50:54 – Important deadlines and application process details. 
52:35 – Visiting your child abroad and keeping in touch!

Have more questions? Contact the Admissions Team at



Topics: what do parents think of School Year Abroad, college