Meet Kimiye - SYA Italy 2018
How did you come to the decision to attend SYA?
I attended the same school from kindergarten to senior year. While it’s nice to grow up and learn in the same community, I wanted a change of pace. When I met some girls from my school who had attended SYA, I knew immediately that it was the right choice for me.
What did you learn in your year abroad that surprised you?
I learned that the world is a lot bigger, yet more interconnected than I had expected it to be. Growing up on an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I was fascinated by the different cultures of the people I met. However, the more I conversed with them, the more I realized that we weren’t so different after all.
Do you have a particularly special host family moment?
Every Sunday, my ten-year-old host sister would wake me up early and we would make pancakes together. We would then surprise my host mother with breakfast when she came home from her morning shift. The pancakes were burnt and in funny shapes most of the time, but it was a fun bonding experience for my host sister and me. The pancakes are a weekly tradition I miss to this day.
At SYA, the curriculum lives in and outside the classroom, what memorable educational experience did you have outside the classroom?
On our first fieldwork day, the teachers had the advisory groups pick a city out of a hat. The students were then assigned to travel to chosen city, explore its famous landmarks, and return to Viterbo before curfew. Finding the right bus and getting off at the correct bus stop was a challenge for my group, but we eventually arrived in Montefiascone successfully. We had a lot of fun eating lunch and exploring the churches together. The fieldwork day not only showed us that we were more independent and better problem solvers than we’d thought, but it was through the assignment that we all became close friends.
How was your education at SYA different than at your high school?
In traditional classrooms, students are forced to sit quietly in their seats, pay attention to the teacher, and contemplate what’s being said. But with the presentation only travelling through one ear and out the other, the information doesn’t fully ingrain itself in the brain. The lesson is almost instantly forgotten. SYA challenges its students to be hands-on with their education and find ways to apply knowledge to real-world situations. We spent a week learning about the Arch of Constantine, but it was rewarding to see the art in person and to be able to point out the intricate details we had learned in Art History class. When we learned about the politics of immigration in Italy, we had the chance to meet refugees, hear their stories for ourselves, and volunteer at organizations that helped them. SYA makes learning memorable and can impact more people than just the students.
What advice would you give to someone who considering SYA?
I was afraid of leaving for my junior year. There were a lot of activities and traditions at my school that I said “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” But if I had stayed at home, I would’ve missed out on the entire world. I would’ve missed out on the relationships and memories with my host family and my SYA classmates. I wouldn’t have learned the Italian language from an authentic source. I would never have traveled around Europe and seen the historical sights, like the Notre Dame before it burned down. I wouldn’t have grown and changed into the person I am today. You don’t know the amazing things you’re missing out on until you take that leap of faith and explore outside of your comfort zone. Home will still be there for you when you return.
How did your year abroad change you?
My year abroad was so transformative that it’s almost easier to list the ways my life has not changed. SYA not only made me appreciate what the world has to offer, but it also made me appreciate home more. I have a greater understanding of the world and I’m more empathetic towards people of different cultures. I’m more independent, but I missed my family and friends while I was away and now make more of an effort to be present when I’m with them.
How did SYA impact your college application process?
Studying abroad in high school is a little uncommon, so the stories I wrote about made me stand out in my applications. Experience is sometimes more valuable than AP classes. Colleges are looking for students who will succeed in unfamiliar and academically challenging environments. SYA alumni check all of the boxes.
What life skills do you feel like you learned while at SYA?
SYA gave me confidence in myself. Nothing seems too challenging after living away from my family in a foreign country, learning a new language, navigating Europe on my own, and making friends with strangers. I really can do anything if I set my mind to it. The world doesn’t seem that scary anymore.
To learn more about SYA Italy, check out the Italy Campus page.