Meet Sam - SYA France 2017
How did you come to the decision to attend SYA?
I loved the idea of spending a year abroad to explore my interests and develop a more complete view of the world around me.
What did you learn in your year abroad that surprised you?
I was surprised by how welcoming the local citizens and high schoolers were to us. If you put in the effort to speak French outside of school and immerse yourself in the culture you will meet some really cool people.
Do you have a particularly special host family moment?
When my parents came to visit Rennes for the holidays and together with my host family we all shared a traditional French Christmas dinner. For me it was the epitome of two worlds colliding, and it was special both for my parents to get a glimpse of my French life and for my host family to see what my life back home was like.
At SYA, the curriculum lives in and outside the classroom, what memorable educational experience did you have outside the classroom?
I played on a local soccer team with my host brother, and one of the best ways that I learned the language was through our carpools to practice with my other teammates. They would speak fast and use lots of slang, so I found it difficult at the beginning of the year to participate in the conversations. I specifically remember one car ride later in the year where I wasn't paying much attention to their conversation, but suddenly realized that I could understand everything that was being said. It was a gratifying moment where I was able to clearly see my progress in French.
How was your education at SYA different than at your high school?
SYA offered a much more hands-on cultural education, where our in-class curriculum was aligned with our out of class experiences. For example, in English class we would read literature written by expatriates while at the same time we were learning on our own outside of the classroom what it meant to be an American living abroad.
What advice would you give to someone who considering SYA?
Taking the leap of faith, no matter how scary it may seem right now, is worth it beyond explanation. The benefits in terms of the people you will meet and the things you will discover both about yourself and the world around you greatly outweigh any sense of comfortability that you would get from staying on the beaten path.
How did your year abroad change you?
I met five of my best friends in the world on SYA, became a more mature and independent person, and discovered a genuine passion for learning. SYA taught me to think critically and question things rather than always accept them for what they are.
How did SYA impact your college application process?
After spending my junior year in France, I found that when I applied to colleges my senior year I had a great base to shape my application around and had endless stories and experiences to write about. I also had a better sense of what I was interested in and what I wanted to get out of college, which narrowed down my school search significantly.
What life skills do you feel like you learned while at SYA?
I definitely became a more curious person, and learned how to live with people that are vastly different from myself.