Study abroad programs attract juniors

Gavin Cook ’10 has always been fascinated with China. So during his sophomore year, he sat down at his computer and searched “school year abroad programs in China.”

Now, six months later, he is in Beijing, riding a bike to school every morning from his Chinese host family’s home.

He is taking classes at a local school where he will work on his Chinese and study the country’s history from the Qing dynasty to modern times.

“I’m really excited, and maybe a little nervous because of the political situation, but it’s really a once in a lifetime experience,” he said.

Cook will also have several opportunities to travel during his year abroad.

In November, his class of 30 students will take an excursion to the Hunnan province and live among the indigenous people there while doing community service, as well as taking a hike on the Great Wall.

Cook said he is especially looking forward to the February trip to Tibet.

“I’ve heard from other students that it’s really phenomenal, and I’ll be seeing things that most white people or Americans will never see,” he said.

Cook is one of several students spending this school year studying in a foreign country.

Some are travelling through the School Year Abroad program (SYA), which offers students the opportunity to study in France, Spain, Italy, China and India, while others found schools on their own.

SYA accepts around 60 students for each of its schools, and requires students studying in France and Spain to have taken at least two years of French or Spanish.

Harper Wayne ’10 chose to spend her junior year with SYA in Rennes, France. Wayne has taken French since seventh grade and became interested in going to France last year when her French teacher, Geoffrey Bird, showed her class a video made by SYA advertising their program. She then began the application, which required two teacher recommendations, an essay, and a letter to her host family written in French.

“I’ll have the opportunity to take classes that aren’t offered at Harvard-Westlake,” such as French Culture and French Art History, she said.

In Rennes, she will live with a host family and take classes conducted entirely in French at an American school.

“I’ve been counting down the days all summer,” she said.

Danielle Naghi ’09 is the lone senior going abroad, spending first semester in India.

She will take the SAT at an Indian school, as well as completing and mailing her college applications from India.

After seeing an SYA presentation at school, she initially wanted to go to Spain, but was reluctant to spend her entire year abroad.

She then learned that SYA was adding India to its offered destinations, and allowing students to stay there for only one semester.

Naghi was attracted to the numerous community service opportunities in India.

She will attend classes at a local K-12 school, which has added a classroom for SYA students.

On weekends, students will go on excursions to landmarks such as the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas, as well as do community service projects related to climate change.

The SYA program in India has several unique requirements. Students must be vaccinated for Yellow Fever and malaria before arriving, and girls must observe a modest dress code.

Tops that reveal shoulders are forbidden, as well as skirts that end above the knees.

Zack Peck ’10 will be spending his junior year in Switzerland, independent of any program. He will attend Aiglon College in Schtaadt, where he will take Philosophy, Business and Music.

“I wanted to go there because my dad went, and it looks like Hogwarts,” Peck said. During the year he plans to work at a restaurant and try out for the school’s ski team.

“I’m really looking forward to taking a Philosophy class, and being able to take photos in the Swiss Alps,” he said.