When I tell people about when I studied in France, they often clarify, “Oh, in college?”, to which I respond, “No, high school!”. Many people are bewildered when I say that, and wonder what sort of high school I went to. It is a very special, eye-opening opportunity to have at that young of an age, and really encourages self-reliance and self-directed learning.
Boarding schools are known for their small, discussion-based, Harkness-style classes, their beautiful and almost collegiate campuses, and the special relationships students build with their teachers, staff, and mentors. A lesser known, but very special aspect of some boarding school educations is the opportunity to study abroad when you’re still an adolescent, often through specialized in-house programs or close partnerships with other academic institutions. These allow you to easily see and learn about another part of the world, with a cohort of familiar students and without having to deal with transferring credit or mismatched academic schedules.
I studied abroad in Paris, my junior year at Choate Rosemary Hall. It was an incredible program; I had a home-stay with a family with Choate connections, attended school in the mornings with Choate-connected teachers, and went to museums and historical sites and explored the city with my class in the afternoons and weekends. We had three teachers who taught us French literature, French history, art history, and French language. We read Sartre in French and would talk about the cultural context of a piece of art and then visit it that afternoon in the Louvre. It was an incredible immersive and interdisciplinary learning experience. At the end, we each had a final project for which we had to conduct our own research throughout Paris, by visiting appropriate museums or libraries, conducting interviews, and reviewing relevant literature. During the program we went as a class to the south of France for a week, to visit museums and sites there as well as experience another variety of French culture.
Choate also had quarter-long study abroad programs in China and Spain, as well as an Arabic language program in Jordan in summer. These programs similarly had home-stays, immersive cultural learning experiences, and intensive language study. They now also advertise programs in Rome and Japan. Andover’s website advertises in-house study abroad programs in China, India, and Brazil, as well as summer programs in Russia, South Africa, Peru, and elsewhere. Phillips Exeter Academy has exclusive programs in France, Ghana, Japan, the Bahamas, Russia, England, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Ecuador and Ireland. Deerfield Academy has an option to study at a boarding school in Jordan, as well as a partnership with School Year Abroad, a high school study abroad company. St. Paul’s School has programs in France, Germany, Japan, as well as short-term summer programs in a variety of locations, and a partnership with School Year Abroad. Even schools without study abroad programs still encourage their students to do something different for a quarter, and facilitate the transition back.
Many schools that offer study abroad, such as Choate, also have summer programs, open to students from other high schools and to those who don’t have room in their athletic or academic schedules. These programs are often very similar, shortened versions of the regular academic term programs; Choate’s summer abroad programs last five weeks, but have the same teachers and home-stay opportunities.
My high school study abroad program broadened my worldview and made me excited to return to school and apply the new skills and ideas I learned abroad. Ever since that program, I applied to as many off-campus opportunities as I could, both in high school and college, eager to see what else was out there. I was often asked about my experience in Paris during college interviews, and even in the hiring process for several internships, since the subject of my final project influenced the subjects I pursued in college. It is definitely an experience I’ll cherish forever and I feel so privileged to have lived abroad before I turned 18.
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/paris-montmarte-754588/
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