Meet August - SYA Italy SEMESTER 2019
How did you come to the decision to attend SYA?
I made the decision to come to SYA because I knew that I wanted to break out of the New England boarding school bubble that I was in. I had a yearning to both explore the world and look at the United States from another perspective.
What did you learn in your semester abroad that surprised you?
Before going abroad, I knew I was already very independent but what astounded me is still how much room there was to grow. My time abroad really pushed me beyond what I thought possible.
Do you have a particularly special host family moment?
My special moment was going on a trip to the coast of Italy on the border of Lazio and Tuscany. This early trip was really a bonding experience as I got to know my host family and they got to know me.
At SYA, the curriculum lives in and outside the classroom, what memorable educational experience did you have outside the classroom?
This one is easy, and you may have even heard it referenced before ... On one of our first fieldwork days, we were split into groups and told to make our way to different towns with little Italian skills and no assistance from the teachers. Long story short, my group made it to our town but were not so lucky on our way back. We ended up hours away near the town where I’d visited with my family. We were told to find our way back on our own and if we weren’t back by dark, call again. After a couple more hours and broken conversations, we made it back to Viterbo at sunset feeling very accomplished and knew that this was exactly what SYA was about.
How was your education at SYA different than at your high school?
The education at SYA was not focused on repetition or memorization. Instead, it focused on learning in ways that will make you redefine what learning is. It is uncomfortable at first — you will feel “behind” your peers state-side, but you are actually days, months, and years ahead in what and how you’re learning.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering SYA?
I could give a lot of pieces but one I think is important pertains to the social environment. For some, SYA can seem daunting — you are going to a foreign country, knowing no one, living with a new family and possessing only a limited ability to speak the language. It is intimidating, and to pile on, the issue of friends is overwhelming. What you have to remember is that everyone is in the same situation, everyone is feeling similar emotions and those commonalities will promote and drive friendships. You will become close friends with people you would never imagine and those friendships will last for a lifetime.
How did your semester abroad change you?
Just a warning that this is where my answer may vary from others. I really do not think that time abroad is going to change you but rather uncover parts of you and bring out the best within you. For me, those parts were increased resourcefulness, independence and decision-making abilities. My time abroad also continued to tease out my interest in international relations and global studies.
How did SYA impact your college application process?
The SYA program really was essential to my college process. I probably would not be at NYU if it weren’t for the experience that I had abroad. It really made me discover my deep interest in higher education that would prove useful in the global workplace and spark more international connections. Thanks to SYA, I applied to the top institutions that held an international/global philosophy program and was lucky enough to be accepted to nearly all of them.
What life skills do you feel like you learned while at SYA?
I learned so much at SYA and a huge part of that was not in the vein of “traditional” education. You will hear from anyone who studied abroad that they learned independence, another language, life outside the United States, etc. Yes, I learned all of this and it cannot be said enough. That being said, one thing I am especially proud of is my cooking skills and maybe even talent!
How would you describe the value of a semester abroad?
Can I say it is invaluable? Well, really it is an opportunity like no other. It is an opportunity that very few high schoolers in the world get to take advantage of. If you haven’t yet applied, apply! If you haven’t yet accepted, accept! You’d much rather be at an SYA reunion in Europe than be lamenting that you missed an opportunity to do something truly incredible (in all meanings of the word).