The SYA Admissions Blog | High School Study Abroad

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. 

Tonada_class_of_2009_gif

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. 

Yancy,_Jamaica1

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.
Jennifer_Seabolt_1-1

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

Examining Ancient Civilizations | SYA ITALY

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Lizzy H. is a junior attending SYA Italy in Viterbo. Lizzy comes to SYA from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Read her post about a recent archaeology lesson with two visiting technicians from the Archaeology Department at the nearby University of Tuscia in Viterbo. 

LizzieHollandCiao and greetings from archaeology class at School Year Abroad Italy! This year we have examined the most ancient civilizations, such as Babylon in the Near East, the complex and intricate Greek city-states, and more recently the rich history of the Roman Empire on the Italian peninsula. We have studied these subjects like archaeologists using the remains of ancient peoples to reconstruct their societies. In class right now, we are learning about the benefits of modern technology when studying the past. 

With the help of the Universita della Tuscia in Viterbo, we have been able to see the scientific side of archaeology and have been introduced to the tools that actual archaeologists use. One of the most valuable tools in the modern field of archaeology is called GPR, meaning Ground Penetrating Radar. Using this sensor technology, archaeologists are able to see underground and predict their findings without actual excavations, an invaluable preliminary step in discovery and research of potential sites.

As SYA students we have been fortunate enough to use this technology in person. In January, three technicians and members of the archaeological studies department at the local university accompanied us to a nearby, unexplored church with the GPR machine. As a class, we scanned the floor of the church, finding the remaining walls of previous constructions and location of the crypt beneath the altar. GPR technology has been revolutionary in the field of archaeology, so it was very interesting to be able to use it first hand and see something actually contributing to our studies! 

Topics: high school study abroad, SYA Italy

My Journey at SYA France | High School Study Abroad

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

This month we asked our Campus Reporters to tell us why a student considering studying abroad with SYA should do so. This post comes from, Kailey K., a junior from Phillip's Academy Andover in Massachusetts. Read about Kailey's journey thus far while at SYA France and her advice to prospective students. 

Kailey_Kirkwood1Over a year ago, an anxious 10th grader hit send on her application over Thanksgiving break; she did so that early, partly because her procrastinating abilities were not yet up to par and mostly because the idea of studying abroad seemed embedded in her fixated mind. 

Months later, at the start of September, a green eyed 11th grader with frizzy blonde hair embarked on a journey that would undoubtedly change her world perspectives:I am so thankful I took that journey.

How is Paris?

France was a whirlwind of chaos, confusion, and the unexpected in the beginning months: these chaoses were obscured by rare moments of complete comprehension. My host family upon remarking on my first month at SYA roars in laughter at my original incessant use of the word "oui" paired with "je ne comprends pas", the head nod, and a giddy laugh. When people hear I am studying abroad in France the first question to arrive is "How is Paris?". At the beginning I would quickly correct them on the location, however, as time has continued my phrases have become less insistent and less clear in regards to location. Despite my incoherency with the location of my experience, the words I offer in response have been nothing short of the truth: incredible. I arise each morning to the dull shine of a melting moon in my double door "french window", lazily preparing for the day I embark on my short walk to the bus stop with a bitter wind cutting through my hair. On the bus a haze of French adolescents knock against each other in a tired glassy embrace. Arriving at 5 allée Ste. Marie my day commences. Here is where I spend 10 hours a day. I spend my time listening to my teachers enlighten us on the beauty of the french language and gradually observe myself falling deeper and deeper in love with the french ways.

At 5 allée Ste. Marie I started a feminist club, I am editor of the yearbook, I am publisher of the literary magazine, and I partake in politics club and creative writing club. After school I participate in dance classes and meetings at a local feminism club. So many opportunities have been afforded to me here, opportunities which at a large school, like Andover, are hard to maintain. Drifting through a day of classes in an embrace of friends and knowledge I am always exhausted upon returning home. Ma famille d'accueil greets me with a kiss on each cheek and an avalanche of questions regarding my day and over dinner we discuss local politics. Never have I been more informed about world occurrences than during my time in France between my host family, politics club, and politics class. As I drift off to sleep I always recount my day and most often there is little other than good to recount paired with the occasional stress of a test or paper.

During the application process no one tells you about the details of the experience. And while you expect an onslaught of information after the acceptance that too is slim. At first I was disappointed upon that recognition, however, I quickly realized that no amount of information can cover all that happens in a year, or in my case five months.

My 15 year old self took a chance

When I am asked why I chose SYA, my answer always slightly varies. I don't know what possessed a 15 year-old girl to want to leave every familiarity behind for a year, but I am forever greatful that my 15 year old self took that chance. I don't know why the average person chooses to go abroad: and for that matter the average person doesn't, but I like to think that for me it was the overwhelming craving for adventure. Upon arrival my nerves seemed nonexistent and only the emotion of overwhelming excitement was evident. While nerves eventually crept in, they have now faded, and the excitement has never dissipated.

I am not going to lie to you: you will be lost, you will be embarrassed, and there will be days where youKaileyKirkwood4 crave nothing more than familiarity. However, there are always those magical moments that you know you could never replace. For me, those fairytale moments came in waves. They emerged as I painted my nails in my host sisters room, as I ate consecutive rounds of crepes, as I grabbed lunch with local teenagers, as I joked with the girls in my dance class, and as I both independent traveled and traveled with my school.

A journey beyond France

Travel is probably one of the best parts of SYA. The opportunities are unimaginable. Currently I am in Bali with my host family. It has been truly incredible and the bonding afforded from this experience is surreal. Soon I hope to go to London, Italy, and Greece. These are all places very easy to access once in Europe.

I am keeping my promise, I won't lie: so, at times SYA seems impossible, but when I add up all of the memories, opportunities and friendships, I would never give it up.

I applaud applicants for their courage and wish you all great futures and hopefully successful experiences at SYA.

Bonne chance,
Kailey

Topics: why study abroad, high school study abroad, SYA France

A Reflection On My School Year Abroad | SYA France

Posted by Emily O'Leary on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

This month we asked our Campus Reporters to tell us why a student considering studying abroad with SYA should do so. This post was written by Briana H., one of our campus reporters attending SYA France. Briana is a senior from West Milford High School in New Jersey.

Our winter break has ended and now come the seven straight weeks of school leading up to our April BrianaHoekvacation and our final long break of the year. Because the school after that break is sparse due to national holidays and testing, in a way, this is our last big part of the school year. Now, as I try to ignore that the year is coming to an end, I reflect on the fact that a year ago, I had no idea I was even coming to SYA. A year ago I was getting ready for the opening night of my school musical, choosing my courses for next year, and in my comfortable, familiar routine. Little did I know that in twelve months I would have created a different routine based in the unfamiliar.

Am I doing the right thing?

There were moments when, for the brief seconds when reality beat my imaginative mind into submission, that I questioned what I was doing. What sane teenager would willingly leave everything they know behind to study French when they could just as well learn the language out of textbooks? But, now as I look at what I have done so far, I can clearly see that this is not just nine months to learn a language.

I remember that one of the first things that struck me here was how unfamiliar everything was, something that should not have been a surprise considering I flew seven hours in a plane and changed continents. The rhythm of life was different, the food, the way the front door opened. Now, what I notice is how normal those unfamiliar things are. True, I don’t know everything about French culture and I still wonder how some routines work in my host family, but at the same time, I am comfortable not knowing. I have learned so much and learned how to adapt to a point that I can adapt to a situation I don’t understand.

From a small bubble to an endless adventure

I’ve also learned how to adapt to living with a person I had never met before. My host mother is an amazing person and she is the reason why I have grown so much and discovered a world around me that has gone from being a small bubble to an endless adventure. But coming here, I had only exchanged some emails with her. It’s her house and I quickly had to fit myself in to the way it runs. And now it feels like coming home. I open the front door and the houses no longer smells strange. I call out “coucou!” and she responds, asking me about my day. Dinner starts off as a conversation about the weather and dissolves into politics, world events, and life lessons I can only begin to understand years from now. We are still learning who the other person is but the small facts revealed everyday make us even closer.

Then there is the independence I have here, to see my friends by hopping on a bus around the corner from my house, to quickly run errands during free periods. I am responsible for myself here; there is no one to wake me up in the morning. More than the language, that is immensely gratifying. I am going to college next year and these nine months give me a chance to learn what it is like to act like an adult.

But even as I act like an adult, I try not to lose the childlike curiosity of the world around me. My language teacher keeps saying we need to be a sponge during our time here and he is completely right. I came to SYA with a strong desire to absorb whatever experience or information that I could. You need a curiosity to learn, the information is not just handed to you.

As I look back over the past year and how much has changed, I laugh at myself for second guessing my decision to come. Yes, there were moments, even some days that were hard, when you were tired and didn’t want to have to try and focus to understand French, when you missed your family or when everything just went wrong. But those were the days in which you went to bed and decided to try again in the morning. Just as every morning brings a chance to try again, the year I have spent in France gave me the opportunity to wipe everything away and start all over again, to discover a world that had been dulled by routine and to familiarize myself with the unexpected.

Topics: why study abroad, high school study abroad, SYA France