Record number of sophomores prepare to study abroad for their junior year

By Gabby Franchina and Camille Shooshani

More students than ever before will attend the School Year Abroad program for the 2011-2012 school year. Seven current sophomores have committed to going to either Spain, France or China. In the past, only two to six students per year have studied abroad.

“I think that kids have been coming back and telling their friends how great the program is and they’ve been getting really excited about it,” Director of Financial Aid Geoff Bird said.

Bird, who organizes study abroad trips at Harvard-Westlake, credits the new surge of applicants to the SYA program to a growing confidence among students in leaving the “comfortable” Harvard-Westlake environment.

“It takes a lot to drop everything and make new friends and adapt to the culture,” Bird said.

The SYA program allows students to live with a European or Asian host family for the school year and completely immerse themselves in the culture of the country. Five students will be attending the SYA program in Spain, Elana Stroud ’13 will attend the school in China and Ally White ’13 will be in France.

“The program looked like an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I knew if I didn’t apply, I would regret it,” Eli Kogan ’13 said. “The program would take my Spanish to another level, as well as help me grow as a person living across the world from my family and friends.”

“I wanted to go because I love having new adventures, and I wanted to get a new perspective on life,” said Anna Wittenberg ’13, who will study in Spain along with Kogan, Conor Cook ’13, Allana Rivera ’13 and Eli Putnam ’13.

Six other sophomores will attend semester schools. Tate Castro ’13, Leslie Dinkin ’13, Maya Landau ’13 and Gil Young ’13 will all be going to High Mountain Institute, where the focus will be on leadership skills and exploring the landscape of the Rocky Mountains. Zelda Wengrod ’13 will be attending The Mountain School, focusing on sustainable living and farming. Nick Edel ’13 will attend the Chewonki School, an outdoor immersion experience in Maine.