The SYA Admissions Blog | High School Study Abroad

Notes from a Teen Golfer: From the Green of San Diego to the Driving Range of Rennes

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

Keeping Up With Golf Abroad

Chloe Belle Hooton is studying in Rennes, France for nine months however, that doesn’t mean that she’s had to put her passion on hold. Here at SYA it’s truly important for us to make sure that students continue to participate in activities that they would back at their home schools.

“I am lucky enough to have been placed with a wonderful host family who loves golf as much as I do,” she said. “They got me a membership at their country club just outside of Rennes.”

“It’s difficult to find a balance between school work and golf, but the great faculty at SYA has made this balance manageable,” she continued.

Not only did Chloe Belle get placed with a host family who is also passionate about golf, SYA France Resident Director, Denis Brochu, has helped alter her schedule so that she has a manageable workload that facilitates her golf training. “Denis helped me immensely with my organizational skills and is always there to offers his advice. He has been incredibly helpful in all of my French classes and that has helped me to be able to work on my golf game while abroad.”

Meet Chloe Belle

Chloe Belle picked up a golf club when she was just two-years-old. In a sport where only about 23% of women play, the San Diego native has participated in numerous national, state, and world championship events.

Chloe says it best herself, “When most people think of golf, they think of the recreational sport men play at country clubs.” However, when Chloe Belle thinks of golf, she thinks passion, hard work and endless hours spent working on her game at the driving range. Chloe_Belle_2-432127-edited.jpg

As the 19-year-old explains, although golf doesn’t require a ton of raw athleticism like football or swimming does, it’s much harder than most imagine.

“Because of the lesser physical element, I’m able to practice for hours on end which creates a need to constantly focus.” During tournament season she spends her days at the golf course, from sunrise to sunset.

In order to make practice productive, she must maintain focus on the game the entire time, which may not be physically exhausting but definitely is mentally. “You could practice and have more talent than anyone on the green, but if you can’t get in the zone the day of the tournament, all bets are off.”

How It All Began

Most toddlers aren’t sure what a golf club is, but that was not the case in the Hooton family. “My parents had gotten my older sisters involved and I was always running around the golf course.” She explains, “My parents just figured why not put a club in my hand?” And the rest is history…

She began competing at age four and at just six-years-old Chloe Belle found herself competing in the Callaway Junior World Championships, shooting a 66 at Presidio Hills and tied for 17th place in the girls 8-and-under division. She went on to get 2nd place at the Callaway Junior Word Championships at eight years old.

Chloe Belle has been playing golf for a total of 14 years. “I golfed from ages two to fourteen then quit due to a persisting back injury and rowed for three years throughout high school.” She explains, “When I was 17 I decided to quit rowing and pick up golf again.”


After returning to the green, she played for her school’s team senior year, continuing to make impressive strides in her golf career. “I was the co-captain and Roundtable Award winner.”

“Funnily enough, I broke my sister’s 9 and 18 hole school records with a 31 and 65 at the league championships, setting a league and course record with the 65,” she continues, “We had an amazing team season, finishing undefeated and I was lucky enough to medal (a medalist is the individual with the lowest score i.e. the individual winner) in every match we ever played in. It was great to close out my high school eligibility with such an incredibly supportive team and coaching staff” 

Chloe Belle plans on playing Division I golf in college and we’re thrilled that SYA has allowed her to see the world and immerse herself in a new culture while continuing to train for her college career.

Topics: keep in touch when you study abroad, SYA France

SYA Summer Alum Jack Kreisler "SYA Gave Me A Summer I'll Never Forget"

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Fri, Nov 13, 2015

SYA: Tell us a little more about your SYA experience. What was it like living with a host family?

Jack: Living with a host family was an entirely new experience for me. I was super nervous before I met my host family, but they took me in and treated me like I had always been there. Although I had been to China before, the experience of living as part of a family was something I never could have imagined. My biggest adventure in China was the day-to-day interactions I had with my host family and shopkeepers. Having to coherently communicate was a challenge, but I my Chinese improved a lot during my time in China, and the regular conversations I had in China using my Chinese are the memories that have stuck with me the most.

SYA: What was your daily schedule like?

Jack: Classes took up most of my morning and early afternoon 5 days a week, but I spent more time with my host family on the weekends, especially on Sundays. The routine of school, homework, and meals helped me settle into a foreign environment and feel like I belonged with my host family.

SYA: How did your experience help you in your language class when you returned to school? 

Jack: Although classes did take up a lot of my time, they had very tangible results, especially on my spoken Chinese. By the end of my time with SYA, I was able to express myself with ease, even though my vocabulary was limited. I have retained that knowledge at school, and the flow of Chinese comes more naturally now.

SYA: Why would you recommend SYA Summer to other students?

Jack: I would recommend SYA Summer because although it was a learning experience that helped improve my Chinese, it was also so much more. I made great friends, became part of a family, and was able to really connect with China and Beijing for five weeks. Experiences like exploring Xian at night or just going out for lunch with friends will stick with me forever, and I will especially remember the people I shared the experiences with. SYA Summer did help my Chinese in the classroom, but it also went above and beyond what I expected it to be, and gave me a summer I will never forget.

SYA: What interested you in the SYA program and why did you apply?

Jack: I was drawn to the SYA program because of classmate and family recommendations, and I applied because of how much my friends told me they enjoyed it.

Can you picture yourself improving your Chinese and making lifelong friends in China? Apply today 

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New Experiences with New Friends - A video by Molly Bocock

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Fri, Nov 13, 2015

Are you interested in taking on new experiences in a brand new country? Apply to SYA Spain today 

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Topics: why study abroad, SYA Spain

Active in the Community and Open to New Experiences by Abby Eymont

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Fri, Nov 13, 2015

Not That Far Away From Becoming A Zaragozano 

“Everything is going to be perfect. Nothing will go wrong because I will be in Spain!” This accurately captures my mindset when I boarded the flight to Zaragoza. Nothing seemed perfect at first, and honestly, I felt homesick and lonely at times. I even felt anxious doing homework in my room because I worried that I should be spending time with my host family instead. Soon I realized my attitude was close-minded, and that my attitude was limiting my experience. Gradually I started to accept that my experience is not exactly what I expected it to be. Instead of driving to school every morning, I wake up early and walk to school, getting a breath of fresh air and some exercise in before my first class.

I cannot pick a favorite class because all of my classes challenge me in a different way. However, I love the structure of my journalism class. My teacher explained that if there is an important event going on in the world, we will prioritize the current event over our planned class agenda. In this, I mean that if the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey has a meeting in Zaragoza, we are not going to work on our school newspaper as planned. Instead, my class will try to reach out to him or visit the site where he is. All of my classes are small, less than 20 students in size which is incredible because you maintain strong relationships with the teachers and the students.

Developing Character and A Greater Sense of Independence 

As I open up to experiences, I learn more and more about myself each day. I am developing a character independent of my American parents’ and friends’ influences, and I am learning how to live on my own. At school, not only am I delving into the Spanish culture, but I am delving into the American culture as well. With students from all over the U.S., I talk to students every day who have grown up in states such as Hawaii, Alaska, and Montana. I love learning about the different areas — like how my friend from Alaska struggles to stay awake on the shortest winter days because the sun sets before four o’clock in Anchorage; or that in Hawaii, it is custom to take off your shoes before entering a home; and also that most of Arizona is exempt from daylight savings. Similarly, I have been more than immersed in the Spanish culture. I am not far from saying that I am an official resident here. Not only do I get asked where plazas are by foreigners, but I am active in the community here. I go to Latin-American dance classes, Zumba classes, and cycling classes at the gym, and I am about to start running with a group here. On Sundays, I attend mass at the Catholic church nearby. I also go to public libraries and cafes on the regular to talk with friends or work on assignments. Furthermore, I have used the Spanish health care system to get blood drawn and to get an MRI scan. Then, later I had to talk to my doctor in español to hear the results. I could continue to go on and on. I think it is safe to say I am not that far away from being considered a Zaragozano.

Do you see yourself becoming part of the community in a brand new country? Apply to SYA Spain today 

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Topics: high school study abroad, living with a host family, SYA Spain

Seeing the World Differently Through the Eyes of Rennes by Will Conte

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Thu, Nov 12, 2015

SYA - Amazingly Unique 

Explaining my first month here is extremely difficult, not because I have mixed feeling about traveling abroad, and not because I am having issues adapting to the French culture and what not, but because in the last five weeks I have experienced more, laughed more, learned more, and, to be honest, lived more than I had expected for my entire nine months abroad. I want to talk about the program specifically because going abroad is becoming a subject more and more common that we hear about in our every day lives. But going abroad with the School Year Abroad program is entirely wonderful and amazingly unique.

The program essentially handpicks a class of around sixty intelligent, driven students to spend nine months exploring an entirely new culture. To be frank, SYA has done a lot of the work for you in terms of making friends. The fact that I can walk up to almost every student here and start a conversation about the Syrian Civil War or existentially discuss humanity is no coincidence. The students here have started a new, transient life for a reason. Nearly half of my classmates participate in le club politiques, and the amount of times I have heard “double major in foreign policy and…” is incredibly exciting. But make no mistake; there is no lack of diversity. While one student may want to double major in foreign policy and medicine another student wants to double major in international business and foreign policy.

A Huge Transformation with Motivated Classmates 

I feel safe here in a school of diverse, catholic, academic students. But besides the scholastic side to the SYA students my classmates and I came abroad to live the French lifestyle and escape our repetitive routines. I do not want to think about the SAT or how many APs I am taking. I want to live a life that I am consistently looking forward to living. And I can honestly say that since I have arrived here I have become a less stressed person who already sees the world differently, and that is in a matter of weeks, so I am looking forward to seeing who I will be in eight months! For me to say that I am feeling less stressed about my future and more excited for the present may sound nice and sweet, but it is a huge transformation for me. And I have a feeling that all of my motivated classmates are having a similar transformation.

Feeling Alive in Western Brittany 

One of my favorite moments so far has been on our first school trip to western Brittany. I woke up early to take a run before our daily activities and my friend asked if he could join me. We ran along the Atlantic coast as the sun rose above the horizon. We passed church after church, each different, yet each antiquated in that way only a European church could be. We explored the town of Brest. We decided to take a left turn here, then two right turns, then run down those stairs over there, and we ended up running out onto a long pier with the warm morning sunlight reflecting in the surprisingly clear water. At the end of the pier was an old Frenchman, and he was fishing, and he was wearing a yellow rain jacket, and in that moment I smiled because I did not want to be anywhere else in the world. We ran back and decided to run down some stairs that led us to a white sandy beach. We shockingly found our friend at the beach who was photographing the truly exquisite view that was the Breton sunrise. We had to head back to make it in time, but the experience was so incredibly captivating that we went swimming instead. It was freezing, but I could not stop looking out at the translucent water in front of me. In that moment I can promise you I did not think once about what extracurriculars I must peruse to get into college. I finally felt alive.


Immerse yourself in a new culture and experience all the wonders Europe has to offer at SYA France! Start your application today

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Experiencing All the Wonders of Beijing - Photos by Jared Rosen

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Thu, Nov 12, 2015

Xavier Sims in the 798 art district

Liza Roberts (left) and Gisela Levy (right) shopping in Panjiayuan, Beijing’s largest outdoor market

Hope Myers in the Forbidden City

A monk in the 798 art district

Motorcyclists rolling through 798

Owen Greenwood (front) eating scorpions with Jennifer Lu (back)

Xavier Sims (left), Tahrieq Koonce (middle), and Mohammed Osman (left) in Panjiayuan

(From left to right) Jennifer Lu, Tahrieq Koonce, Destini Armstrong, Sophia Hoenig, Hope Myers, and Alexa Flesch in front of Panjiayuan

A fisherman I saw on the river while walking to the Xizhimen subway station

Gardeners working in front of the Forbidden City

Do you picture yourself experiencing all the wonders of Beijing, China? Start you application today 

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Meeting New Friends and Conquering New Expereinces in Beijing by Yumna Naqvi

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Wed, Nov 11, 2015

Earlier today, I was walking down the paths of my local park, seeking inspiration for my blog post; it would not be an easy task to sum up the first month that I’d been here. Should I mention the time at Lama Temple where I accidentally dropped my incense stick into the charity box? Should I joke about the evening when I only had one kuai (RMB) to navigate myself home, but the bus fare was two kuai? Or should I recount my first time eating cow stomach; the nervousness I felt when it was placed on my plate and the triumphant feeling that came after finishing it? I was lost in thought and didn’t notice the elderly couple until they started waving to me. Enthusiastically, I waved back to them, remembering how we had met.

I had been coming home from my first Wednesday of school, feeling energetic because school ended at 12 pm, a concept entirely new to me. It’s only on Wednesdays that school ends at noon, usually school ends around 3:30pm and everyday I have some kind of extracurricular after class; Calligraphy, Watercolor Painting, or Wushu, a form of martial arts. And on certain mornings of the week I wake up earlier for Taiji Class.

In addition to ending relatively earlier than the other days, on Wednesdays I only have one Chinese class compared to the usual two and was hoping to practice some more. So when I walked by an elderly couple that was staring at me, I backtracked, announcing, “Nihao! Wo shi meigguoren!” (“Hi! I’m American!”) This proved to be an excellent conversation starter because soon I was surrounded by a ring of people all eager to hear about my life in China compared to life in America.

So of course, soon I was talking about my favorite Chinese dish, baozi, (steamed stuffed buns), the new friends I’ve made, both American and Chinese, and how my host mom recently discovered my stash of American junk food which lead to the sudden appearance of Chinese pastries in my room. They were baffled to hear that public transportation isn’t big in New Jersey, my home state in America, and were amused to find that it was completely new for me to wake up early and catch my bus. It was also a source of amusement for them to hear my awe regarding popular tourist sites I had visited including Summer Palace, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, 798 Art Exhibition, and Lama Temple.

Of course the conversation was nowhere near fluent; sometimes I interpreted a question wrong and answered something completely differently and sometimes after a sentence was said pretty fast I blinked uncomprehendingly, but for the most part we could understand each other. When the conversation ended, I was invited to morning Taiji sessions.

Wandering the same route this morning reminded me of how far I have come since I arrived. I’ve adjusted to home and school life, made new friends, and seen so much, both through daily life and visiting tourist sites. The best part is that this is only the beginning.

Start conversations with locals, try something new and immerse yourself in the Chinese culture! Start your SYA China application today 

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Adjusting Well to Life in Rennes by Luisa Vosmik

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Wed, Nov 11, 2015

I honestly can't wrap my head around the fact that I've already been in Rennes for a little more than a month, yet here I am trying to write a blog post about it. When I began thinking about the prompt, I realized that I'm stuck in a strange limbo - on one hand it feels as though I was in the U.S. yesterday but on the other I feel as though I've been in Rennes forever.

I keep waiting to wake up from this dream and go straight back to my every day routine, where school ends at 3:30pm and my friends have known each other since before Pre-K. But then I remember the incredible situation I've landed in... Even though school here ends at 18h00 (that's 6pm, a la française) I've already adjusted to the schedule - trust me I have no complaints about the half-days we enjoy every Wednesday and Friday. I never thought it would happen, but I’ve even found myself memorizing the bus schedule for my line - ligne 72 - and making it to the stop on time every day.

The people I've met here are incredible, too. Just a few days ago my friends started to tell a story and then stopped when she realized we wouldn't understand the context - we hadn't been with her in her pre-SYA life when part one of her story took place. She then explained it all, and everyone ended up laughing, but for me the whole thing emphasized how quickly I was able to connect with my amazing new classmates.

Other people, like my rowing team-mates and my host brothers, have been no different. Yesterday, at a discussion group at the Franco American Institute (if you're ever in Rennes, I highly recommend checking it out) my classmates and I exchanged stories with French kids our ages. The language obstacle certainly existed, but it disappeared when we all laughed about getting pushed off the metro at a stop or almost being late to school due to being trapped on the metro by a rainy day induced crowd.

I really do think that my struggles to speak French have begun paying off, and language isn't the only thing that gotten easier - I feel like I've adjusted pretty well to Rennais life. I really do think that the entire class of 2016 has a metamorphosis of sorts – we’re certainly not the same scared kids that met for the first time at  Boston airport. We've all had crazy adjustment experiences, and it certainly hasn't always been easy, but in the end it all ends up being either a learning experience or a funny story to tell to people back home, or both. In the first month alone, there have already been so many incredible things that I can't not be super excited for the rest of the year. I'm about to head off on a trip to the Loire valley with all my classmates, which promises to be the next on my list of incredible French experiences...I can't wait to write about them all.

Can you picture yourself exchanging stories with French locals? Start your application for SYA France today!

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Tales from the Turbs by Karen Ahn

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Tue, Nov 10, 2015

Simple everyday occurrences, such as walking on the cobblestones of Viterbo or even speaking broken Italian to my host parents, seem to have integrated themselves into my lifestyle in Italy. Although Viterbo, or the “Turbs” (as endearingly called by my fellow SYAers), still remains a mystery in some ways, I’ve come to feel more accustomed to the Italian way of living, con non molto problema.

One of the differences I’ve observed between the United States and Italy, is how different the school day in Italy is compared with back home in the United States. The classes, or lezioni, are structured into 47-minute blocks, and there are breaks every three periods to give us time to complete homework. The courses are generally challenging, but the classes are very engaging and fascinating.

On most Fridays, the school takes day trips to nearby cities for lessons outside of the classroom including, Ancient History Global Citizenship, or Italian and Ancient Art History which takes learning to a new level. Recently, my Art History class went to Cerveteri, an ancient city located an hour away from Viterbo where wevisited a museum, which we happened to have studied earlier that week. Aside from the just language immersion that we’re already experiencing through SYA, we’re getting the opportunity to read a book on a piece of artwork and then, almost immediately, go see it in person. This is incredible and it’s almost like another kind of immersion, a complete immersion of history. 

Are you ready to reach beyond the classroom? Apply for SYA Italy today 

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My Life In Pictures by Stella Gewirz

Posted by Carly Thurlow on Tue, Nov 10, 2015

Jolisa Brown studies on the main stairwell before an Art History test.


The front steps of SYA France, in Rennes

A smaller château on the seaside of St. Malo

Larry Webber looks at the architecture and gardens during a walk through Parc du Thabor

The facade of the Republique metro station in Rennes

While walking the streets of Rennes, you can see older architectural styles mixed with the new. (taken just outside of Sainte Anne)

Sophia Klebnikov walks the “plank” during SYA France’s first trip to Finistère.

A photo of the small seaside town of Concorneau. 

A large château just outside of Rennes in the countryside.

The SYA France students walking through the cold mud during their trip across Le Mont St. Michel bay.

A picture is worth a thousand words. An experience can't be explained in a million. Start your SYA France application today 

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