Actually Interesting: Academics at SYA

Georgia N. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Lovett School in Georgia.

The SYA curriculum, while definitely manageable, is fast paced. Since being here, though I somehow feel relaxed despite the work, I’ve accomplished a lot in my classes and I’m proud of and excited by the work I’m doing… which is, too be quite honest, exceptional.

I think a big part of what made SYA appealing to me was the idea of learning about things I care about and leaning into my interests in a way you just can’t do at a regular school; obviously, there is the language component—I think it goes without saying that I’m interested in improving my French—but also in my extracurriculars and in electives I feel like I’m able to explore areas of interest.

This being said, I think I’m an exception to the majority in saying that I genuinely like school and enjoy learning, and I’m not trying to scare off anyone who doesn’t—there are plenty of other advantages to SYA and it really is what you make of it—but for me, it’s been a very fulfilling academic process. Seeing as I am a campus reporter, I’d assume it’s also noted I have an interest in writing and as such this article will be influenced by that, but if you’re not the writing type, don’t worry—SYA has plenty of other paths you can take to tailor to your interests (and to all my teachers reading this—I love your classes too, even if they’re not included here! I’ve only got so much time and energy to write, but you’re all great!).

As an elective I chose to take French Literature, a class offering the equivalent of an English class but in French (that is, French class beyond the grammar—the good stuff). In this course we’ve studied French classics, theater, poetry, and surrealism, and we’ve gotten to challenge our relationship with writing. One of the highlights for me was reading prose poems by Baudelaire; it’s exciting to be studying culturally relevant authors—those who challenged the literary world, that is, and inspired movements I care about today--and getting to a level with my French where I can read, analyze, and appreciate the text. I’ve also taken my French writing to a new level as I’ve been allowed to put aside a grammar focus and instead look at what I’m saying and how, learning how to really express myself in a foreign language. I think this is really vital, as when you’re living in French for a year, you crave to go beyond the basics of “how’s the weather?” and “how was your day?” and really start communicating; this class has definitely helped me to get there. To someone disinterested in language arts, this probably sounds remarkably boring, but I have been having a lot of fun.

In English class, this theme continues; reading Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, Italo Calvino and James Baldwin—among other important authors—has left me feeling genuinely enriched. Despite that the English class is tailored to our French experience (books and writing assignments focus on France, the foreign experience, questions of identity and belonging) these are all works I would have been excited to study anywhere, in any context, and I’m genuinely shocked we’ve been able to get through as much as we have. Reading these works and understanding these authors, I have so much more awareness of vital literary movements and communities that I had only the vaguest knowledge of before; also, these works have actually pushed me to think, reconsider, and challenge my opinions and perspectives. Moral of the story, we study significant works that affect and influence culture today and push me as an individual, and it’s both refreshing and exciting.

Moving outside of class, I’m also a member of the LittMag, a student-run publication for French and English writing, photos, art, or anything else someone is willing to share, and I’m doing a creative capstone project. These are just two examples of how you can get involved outside of class with your interests and make something of your own. It’s nice being creatively and academically stimulated, and being interested in what you’re doing makes a big difference in how you do it. I, for one, have become passionate about the ways I’m spending my time and energy, as I would hope one could tell in reading this, and it feels really, really nice.

What’s more, I have a motto that the only thing that makes people interesting is if they’re interested (in life, in what they’re doing, in anything at all) and so I guess it’s for that that the people here are so incredible; for the most part, SYA attracts people looking to be stimulated and who genuinely care to feel engaged in their lives, so I suppose the friends I’ve made and people I’ve met are so great as an important side effect of this community.

So, no matter what your interests, SYA probably offers a whole host of ways you can pursue them and actually encourages you to do so—yes, even if you’re not into writing. For me, it’s been nice being engaged in my academics and feeling like they’re interesting because I no longer live for the weekend or for break (though those are nice, too) but feel excited for my school days as well. On the whole, school doesn’t feel like a separate, lesser part of my life or like a chore but like something I look forwards to; I honestly appreciate the school week just as much as a weekend, and changing my relationship with learning in this way has made me feel all the more rewarded by this experience.

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