Programs such as School Year Abroad (SYA) and semester schools are learning experiences here students study for a single term. Grade 11 Dean Jennifer Craig saw the positive experiences many of the students at her previous school, The Hotchkiss School, had while enrolled in these programs.
Craig believes that having an “injection of energy and a new set of perspectives” is valuable for students in that it helps them gain a new perspective on their educational experience.
With the vast array of semester schools around the globe, Craig believes there are plenty of semester schools that could cater to different students hobbies, personalities or interests.
Max Roth (’16) is currently taking part in SYA in Zaragoza, Spain. “So far my proficiency in Spanish has enhanced greatly,” Roth said, who had studied Spanish at ASL prior to his trip.
Roth believes that in order to properly learn any language, “you have to experience it and be immersed in the culture. Taking classes gives a good foundation and equips you with basic skills, but to really speak and understand you have to enter the culture,” a goal of many of the SYA programs.
For students who feel a year away from home is too long, there is another option that may be more suitable. Greta Poler (’15) took a semester abroad last year at The Island School in Eleuthera, Bahamas. Poler believes she truly benefited from the school’s different learning approach. “I decided to go because I was having trouble learning from sitting in a classroom and taking notes,” she said.
The Island School experience immerses its students right into the Bahamian way of life. Poler noticed how different ASL and The Island School’s learning approaches are: “At ASL you all sit in a classroom and that’s it basically, but at the Island School everything was based on and relevant [to our experience in the Bahamas],” she said.
Poler cites her coursework as an example of this relevance. “We took marine ecology [because] it’s such a big part of being in the Bahamas and we had that resource of coral reefs,” she said. Poler’s experience at the Island School was something she would certainly recommend to her peers.
Leila Ben Halim (’15) also took a semester abroad at The Mountain School of Milton Academy in Vermont. Ben Halim took part in the semester program as she felt she “needed a change of pace” and new surroundings. She found that The Mountain School, with only 45 students, “had a really strong sense of community” and that everyone was extremely close and bonded.
Ben Halim loved the idea of not being cooped up inside all day. “Every day we had two hours for a work period where we were outside and I really enjoyed being in [the outdoors],” she said. Although many students may be nervous to leave their friends and family, Ben Halim said that “nothing will have changed, you will have the same friends…it’s a great thing.”
Ben Halim says she would recommend a semester school experience for any upcoming junior.
Education doesn’t always have to stop in the classroom as Roth, Poler and Ben Halim have all discovered. Roth, still enrolled in SYA, had only positive things to say about his experience. “In my case it has been very beneficial,” he said. “I have learnt to see things from a different, more global perspective. This program has developed my views on learning, education and life in general.”