What it Takes to be an SYA Student

Isabelle M. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Wilmington Friends School in Delaware.

It’s February, and I know that means those of you who applied are gearing up to hear back from SYA admissions, so I thought it fitting to write about the kind of mindset that will make your time abroad as enjoyable and worthwhile as possible.


Going abroad to a different country where few (if any) people speak your language is daunting, and full of small challenges and obstacles to overcome on a daily basis. Don’t be alarmed–it’s nothing you can’t handle. Just remember to take everything one step at a time, and although you should absolutely take breaks when you need to, don’t give up. If you keep moving forward, even when the going gets rough, by the end of the nine months you’ll be shocked by how much you’ve grown.


Believe in yourself. At SYA, you’ll be surrounded by amazing, intelligent, and strong-willed people, and it’s important to remain sure of yourself among them. Hold tight to your values, but hear what others have to say. Everyone has something to contribute, something to bring to the table, including yourself. 


Set a goal for yourself before you set off to your SYA country of choice. Make it something long term, nothing that can be solved in the first few months. For example, before arriving, I decided that by the end of this trip, I wanted to be fluent in French. No matter how good my French was upon arrival, this is a goal that would be essentially impossible to solve immediately because as one’s language level progresses, so does one’s definition of fluency. Having a goal is incredibly important because in the tough spots (and there will be tough spots), when you’re feeling homesick and you’re having trouble remembering why you decided to come to SYA in the first place, this goal will get you back on track.


As an SYA student in a COVID year, I know first hand how easy it is to focus on the negatives. Independent travel’s not the same, the winter spectacle was cancelled, and, of course, there’s the ever-looming threat of being sent home halfway through the year like the SYA class before us. In moments like these, it’s important to focus on the good, too. Sometimes, walking to my bus stop in the morning, some complaint dancing about in my head, I have to tell myself, “You’re in France. You’re achieving your goals, you’re learning languages, and you’re gaining the independence you’ve wanted for so long.” I remind myself of these things, and I realize that yes, this year, like every year, is imperfect, but I’m so grateful regardless of all the opportunities I’ve been provided.


Nine months may sound like a long time, but in reality, it passes far too quickly. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to take time to reflect and truly think about what you’ve seen, learned, and how you’ve grown, each and every day. Sure, you’re not always going to have some big “AHA” moment to look back on, but with such a limited time frame, every minute counts, and every minute is worth taking the time to remember.

  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA France
Ha Sido un Placer

In her final blog, Camus Reporter Meredith M. reflects on the letter she wrote to herself at the beginning of her year abroad.

The Revolving Door

In her final blog, Campus reporter Isabelle M. describes her year abroad in France as a revolving door.

Time Travel

Melinda D. reflects on her final weeks abroad and how she and her peers have changed at SYA Spain.

Arrivederci Roma

Campus reporter Camila F. writes about saying goodbye to Rome and shares the music that defined her year abroad.

Thank You

Julia A. expresses her gratitude to her host family, friends, and parents for her time at SYA France.