SYA Fund Chair
My SYA classmates and I boarded the flight to Paris for our year in Rennes on September 16, 1984, my 17th birthday. When I was 14, I chose to attend Phillips Academy (Andover, MA) in part because of its SYA affiliation. The first day of the SYA adventure served as a culmination of plans years in the making. Our class had an extraordinary year, and the experience lived up to all of my expectations.
I chose to attend Middlebury College (VT) because it had a flexible study abroad policy, and I wanted to replicate some form of the SYA experience for myself in Latin America. In June 1988, I enrolled at the University of Central America in Managua, Nicaragua, where I lived for six months. I returned to Nicaragua several times, once for field work on my college thesis.
As editor of the Middlebury’s newspaper in 1990, I interviewed a guy named Bernie Sanders who was running for Vermont’s lone seat in the House of Representatives. After he won, I went to work for him in Washington, DC.
My first job out of law school in 1997 was in the Paris office of a U.S. law firm. I got that job in part because of my SYA French. While I was there, my younger brother enrolled in SYA France. I spent Christmas of 1998 with his host family in Rennes, and he and his (many) SYA friends sometimes made themselves at home on my Paris apartment floor. After two years in Paris, I moved to Hong Kong, where I lived for a year and a half working with the same law firm. The firm then transferred me to Singapore, where I spent another year and a half.
In 2002, I moved to New York where I lived with my wife and two daughters until 2019. Both daughters enrolled in a new school which offers a Mandarin immersion program starting in preschool, spending every other school day with teachers who speak to them only in Mandarin. We now live in Northern Virginia, near Washington DC, with our four dogs.
I had a plan for what had to come before SYA. But I didn’t plan any of what came after it and wouldn’t have predicted most of it. During SYA, I developed the practical tools and a well-placed confidence that I can make myself at home in places and among people all over the world. SYA continues to shape my life in meaningful ways. That’s why it’s such a privilege to serve as chair of the SYA Fund.