Dear SYA Family,

What a year! Thank you for your commitment to SYA, and especially during the highs and lows of the last 18 months. It goes without saying that as an educational institution, and one affiliated with travel and freedom of movement, we were presented with challenges both unforeseen and unparalleled in recent history. It was the first time in our 56 years that we did not send students abroad.

Gratefully, we are now on the other side. This year’s students are abroad and thriving – already well-acquainted with their new cities, host families and routines and making the most of their adventure. While the key elements of SYA are very much intact, we have also made necessary changes to facilitate learning abroad during a pandemic. Masks, distancing and air filtration systems are new realities in the SYA experience.

With enormous thanks to you, our SYA Family, for your support of The Campaign for SYA, there are other new realities as part of the SYA experience. You will read about some of them in the following pages, and I hope you will keep up with our newsletter, SYA Now, and social media as we continue reporting back about your dollars at work throughout the year. Your collective impact is significant and your philanthropy has never mattered more.

I am deeply grateful that SYA can resume pursuing our mission in the world and that we are able to do so with the necessary resources. Because of your generosity, we now have greater financial stability to support and enhance the incredible work we do each year and to adapt moving forward as the needs of our schools and students evolve.

With appreciation,

Tom Hassan





The 2020–2021 year was the first time in our history that we were unable to send students abroad due to the pandemic. Because of this, SYA realized an operating loss for the year. On the positive side, because of the efforts of the trustees and school leadership in recent years to reduce operating costs and build our reserve balances, we were able to mitigate the financial impact to SYA during the pandemic without touching our endowment.

Although students were not with us, the work done by the faculty, staff and leadership to enhance our curriculum and the student experience continued throughout the year. Your financial support, to the SYA Fund and to The Campaign for SYA, allowed us to invest in these changes. Your generosity helped keep SYA an attractive program amid the ongoing market shifts impacting independent schools, and provided us with financial stability to meet the needs of our schools and students going forward.

On behalf of myself and all of my colleagues and the faculty at SYA, we thank you for your support!

Michael McCarthy

Young alumni reflect upon what giving to SYA means to them and the future of our school.

“SYA has transformed and shaped me in ways that I can only appreciate now that I have the ability to give back. My year abroad has impacted my willingness to take risks and my ability to assess myself introspectively. It has afforded me the open mindedness that it takes to be a transformative leader and the flexibility to avoid many pitfalls in life.”

“I support SYA because I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to study abroad in high school. This was by far the most formative experience of my life. The independence I gained, the friends I made and the depth of language and history I learned are invaluable and still impact me in my daily life. SYA was more than just a school or a study abroad program for me, it was an integral step in my path to adulthood and forming who I am at my core. I give back because I want SYA to continue changing young students’ lives in the way it changed mine. I want other students to have the opportunities I did.”

“I support SYA because it continues to influence the decisions I make daily, both personal and professional. It is important to me that SYA continues for generations of students to come, and I hope that in supporting SYA I am supporting this mission as well as contributing to making SYA more accessible for students everywhere.”

“I had so many more life experiences than my peers and classmates after coming back from Spain because of the opportunities and freedom I had at 16 years old. SYA has impacted my life in many ways but mainly in openness to new experiences and being comfortable in unfamiliar situations. It is so clear that SYA has a large effect on alumni, and I want to make sure that it never goes away. SYA is a unique experience that should always be offered.”

In ways large and small, SYA students go on to influence countless professions, families, communities and nations. At SYA, we believe that excellence in education is achieved through the participation of talented, motivated students from all walks of life. Our current student scholars share their hopes for the academic year thanks to those who made their SYA education possible.

“My hopes for my SYA experience are to take full advantage of the opportunities waiting for me in Spain. I hope to improve my speaking skills, not only at school but also at the dinner table with my host family. I hope to make lifelong friendships and connections with my fellow SYA peers, Spanish locals and, most importantly, my amazing host family. This year I also hope to grow not only as a student, but as an individual, with the goal of bringing back new knowledge and insight to my various communities at home.”

“I am hoping that with my SYA experience, I will feel accomplished and proud of my own development as an individual. I am most looking forward to living with a host family; they will be my home away from home. I will get to develop respect and understanding for their culture and way of life and will build bonds that will last even after the year ends. In addition, conversing with my host family will drive me to speak in the target language, and even offers a chance for me to also teach them new things, too!”

“My hopes for my SYA experience are
to better myself in every way possible and become more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to make connections with people that last a lifetime and take advantage of SYA Italy’s talented teachers. I hope to gain a strong understanding of Italy’s background, history, culture and people. I am also looking forward to making Viterbo my home and eventually being able to confidently talk to each resident by strengthening my skills in Italian language.”

“I am hopeful about creating new relationships that will continue after France, both with my host family and my peers. I will be surrounded
by those with the same passion and interests, which means it should be easy to find my group. I am hopeful to have the opportunity to travel through France and Europe. At this time, I’ve never been out of the country, and I know this year will be a highlight of my life. I anticipate I am going to grow this year as a young adult and gain independence. I hope to also explore many interests and possible careers to see where my future lies.”

“My deepest desire for my SYA experience is to gain more confidence in my speaking and comprehension abilities. I have always enjoyed assisting people who don’t speak English, so I am hoping that I can return to the U.S. as fluent as possible so that I can assist others with more accuracy. I also hope that I can come out of this year with great friends, new connections and a deeper understanding of Spanish culture. I imagine that we will spend classes diving deep into the rich history of Spain by touring the city and going to visit museums.”

With over 60 years of service to SYA between them, three iconic educators reflect on the joys of working in a unique place where language immersion meets place- based academics. From Viterbo to Zaragoza to Rennes, their mission to prepare SYA students for a changing world continues to energize and inspire.

In 2001, as SYA sought to establish roots in Italy, Alessandra Tuzi turned out to be the perfect local connection. Tuzi was teaching English to students in Viterbo where she had grown up, and her lifelong familiarity with the town helped SYA establish important local associations. “We were able to create very good relationships with the citizens and shopkeepers and they came to know and like our students, often spending time talking with them,” she says.

Twenty years later, having served as both SYA Italy’s host family coordinator and assistant to the resident director, she teaches Italian, happy to share her extensive knowledge of local culture, tradition and history with students eager to immerse themselves in it. Making her students comfortable with the native language as early on as possible is Tuzi’s top priority.

“Whether I’m teaching beginning, intermediate or advanced learners in Italian language skills,” she explains, “it’s important that they feel at ease with Italians as quickly as they can.” She believes that by familiarizing her students with local arts and culture, it brings them closer to understanding Italian lifestyles and customs.

“What I like the best is the collaboration with my SYA colleagues, especially from the other campuses because it’s both challenging and exhilarating,” says Pascal Montéville, who joined SYA France in 1986. A teacher of Political Science and Global Issues in Rennes, he oversees extracurricular activities there and runs the SYA Summer France Program. He has been on the faculty of three SYA member schools and also taught at SYA Vietnam during its inaugural year in 2009.

For Montéville, the one constant that has endured over time and place is SYA’s ability to offer students the rare opportunity to experience first-hand what it is to live and to study in a foreign country, while at the same time dealing with the personal challenges of adolescence.

“It takes courage and determination, and it says a lot about the students who decide to embark on this journey,” he says. “I often think about what I would have done if I had been given that chance when I was in high school. It’s an idea that is as revolutionary today as it was 56 years ago when SYA was founded. The technology has influenced and impacted the experience, but it remains an incredible one for the students who really go for it.”

Marta Escartín has taught Spanish at SYA Spain since 1999 and is also the director of the SYA Summer Spain Program. For Escartín, the students are what sets SYA apart.

“Leaving your (home) country for an academic year when you’re 16 or 17 is not for everyone. Although there are slight differences among generations of SYA students, overall they share the same brave spirit to take the risk that this experience requires,” she explains. “They have an honest desire to challenge themselves and a great deal of genuine curiosity about the world.”

For Escartín each student represents an opportunity to foster curiosity, and her passion for teaching is evident. “Once you start working with them, the magic is created and you’re already trapped,” she says. “You just want to walk with them through this amazing year, to help them to face their fears, handle the uncertainty, and watch them grow as individuals while they absorb our language and culture and develop their intercultural competence.”

Because of your support, SYA will continue to excel, innovate, and provide many more generations of students with a life-changing experience.