Academics / Community

School Away From School

As the year comes to a close, letters regarding SYA and exchange students have been floating around a few people’s inboxes. Some of them are letters of rejections, while a few are letters of acceptance.

When Alexa Orent ’20 found out she was accepted into the Tokyo Exchange Program, she was overjoyed. “Finding that all my hard work had actually gotten to something was really cool”. She says after expressing her excitement. The Tokyo Jogakkan Student Exchange Program is a two-week “school-based and family oriented” exchange program that lets qualified students host a family for two weeks and live the life of a student in Japan for two weeks.

Alexa’s interest in the exchange program started last year as a freshman. “I wanted to expand what I had learned there,” she says when talking about her East Asian Studies class and how that helped her make the decision to apply. “It’s kind of weird because I’m leaving in two weeks”, she says after a while. When I asked about what she was worried about, she said that she didn’t know the level they were in or what they were learning, but she was really worried about whether “they were speaking Japanese” in the classrooms.

“They were super supportive,” she remembers when I asked about her parents’ reactions. “My dad was a little bit less enthusiastic”, she recounts, yet in two weeks she will be travelling across the world and experiencing new cultures. “it kind of just hit me that I’m actually going to Japan.”

“I didn’t believe that I got in,” Kaylah Jacobs replies with enthusiasm. Kaylah is doing School Year Abroad (SYA) in France for her junior year, and it is clear she cannot wait to begin. SYA is an opportunity for students entering in grade 11 or 12 to study abroad for either one semester or the whole year. Kaylah opted for the whole year, and she knows she won’t regret it. Until she comprehended that she would no longer be in an English speaking environment.

I realized all my classes were in French, besides English and Math, even my Science class would be in French,” she remarks, which made her hesitant in her decision at the time, but the thought of spending a whole year in a different continent pushed that thought out of her mind. “New culture, new food,” were only a few of the answers Kaylah gave when she was asked about what she was excited for.

SYA France isn’t the only option for next year. Paige Jacobson ’20 will be spending her junior year abroad in Spain, experiencing her 11th Grade in a different continent. Paige “applied to SYA because [she] wanted to better [her] Spanish and challenge herself.” She never regretted her decision because it was something she had thought about deeply before beginning her application. “Next year I’m worried that I am going to have a hard time connecting…because of my lack of knowledge in Spanish,” she says with a smile, “[but] I know that I am going to learn so much.”

SYA and the Tokyo exchange aren’t the only options at Dana. In SYA, there are options of countries like Italy, Spain, and France, and there is also the Australian exchange and the Spain Exchange. Exchanges or school years aren’t for everyone, so there is also High Mountain Institute, and a non-Dana program called the Island School. Spending a whole year away from school isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that is why smaller trips are offered over March Break like the trips to Europe and South Africa.