SYA’s curriculum is our mission in action. With an interdisciplinary and student-driven approach, there are no clear lines that separate traditional school from experiences outside the classroom. Time spent engaging with host families, on educational travel, co-curricular activities and fieldwork are all part of the SYA curricular experience. As students uncover the connections between their coursework and their environment, the world around them amplifies learning. SYA’s experiential model challenges students while encouraging them to take their education into their own hands.

 At the heart of SYA’s curriculum is experiential fieldwork. Through fieldwork, students develop key skills and gradually take increased ownership over their education with the support and mentorship of an advisor. As the culmination of the SYA experience, all students complete a final project. While engaging in this hands-on fieldwork, students master the language of their host country and apply SYA’s interdisciplinary and student-driven approach to their six courses: English and math (taught in English), the target language, the experiential fieldwork course and two electives. 

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U.S. Educational Model Taught With a Local Focus

  • SYA is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

  • All three SYA campuses are official test centers for the College Board. Students are able to take the PSAT, SAT and AP tests and receive testing accommodations while abroad. 

  • Each school has a college counseling liaison to support sophomores, juniors and seniors through the college process.

  • Students receive trimester progress reports and advisor reports in between trimesters. 

  • The SYA faculty includes both local and American teachers. The majority of faculty hold advanced degrees.

  • At the end of the year, the vast majority of SYA students — even those who came as beginners — take the AP Language and Culture exam relevant to their host country.

Learning Beyond the Conventional Classroom

  • SYA students can participate in international collaborative projects with peers at other SYA schools and with organizations and partners like Model United Nations, Global Issues Network and News Decoder.

  • Outside of the classroom, the on-site co-curricular coordinator helps students find opportunities to engage with the local community including: sports, art and volunteering.

  • All SYA students live with host families to fully immerse themselves in their host country.


The SYA Capstone, or the final project for yearlong students, is designed to provide students with an opportunity to showcase their evolving skills through a comprehensive project. Semester students also complete a final project that rounds out their shorter experience abroad. The project provides students the opportunity to dive into a topic that captures their imagination and interest. Above all, these projects are crafted to embody the SYA mission, highlighting the student’s experience relying on, and engaging with, relevant local resources. It is up to each student to design an experiential project in which they learn by doing. While background knowledge and research are an integral part of a successful capstone, the primary focus is the student experience and it is up to students to demonstrate their learning throughout the project. 


“The capstone research project made my year. I did my project on Beijing's urban development schemes and was studying a specific case that targeted migrant, or 'floating,' populations ... It gave me the opportunity to not just visit China, but to see China, to understand China, to get a glimpse of her complex DNA. I learned more than I could from a desk anywhere else, spending countless days surveying in the field. This was something that was heavily emphasized in all of the classes at SYA, whether it be going to a nearby temple or museum for Chinese History or producing original research on the political/economic scene in my Chinese Political Science and Economics class, but it really came to fruition with the capstone experience.”

- Jack CN '18, Georgetown University 

Sample Capstone Projects:


An SYA student making his own shoes for the experiential component of the capstone project

     An SYA student reviewing manuscripts at a local archive for her capstone research

For more information on specific courses at our three campuses, please visit the Campus Academic pages:

 France - Italy - Spain

SYA is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges .