AHS Students Study Abroad
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This year several AHS students departed for up to a year to countries in Europe and South America. These students travel through the Rotary Youth Exchange, AFS-Intercultural Programs, and Swiss Semester. Recently I sat down, or FaceTimed with those still abroad, and got a chance to learn about what life in a foreign country is really like.
Philip Psaledakis, who would be an AHS sophomore, has traveled to Semily, in the Czech Republic, through the AFS-intercultural program. He is living there for the 2016/2017 school year. When asked about his favorite part about living abroad, he was quick to say, “Not the food.” But he continued, “You learn something new everyday, but my favorite part is looking outside my bedroom window and seeing a church from the 1200s. It’s so cool to live in a town that’s been around forever.” He noted that the history of the Czech Republic can be seen everywhere.
“I do miss Aspen. I think a lot of people don’t realize that it’s such a nice place,” Psaledakis added. “One of my friends is living in a house thats crumbling down. The country is so old, and is still recovering from communism.”
Mary Tarver Reid, also an AHS sophomore, has just returned from a semester abroad in Zermatt, Switzerland. Unlike Psaledakis, who lives with a foreign family, Reid spent the fall semester with other American students living in dorms through Swiss Semester. Because of the unique format of study abroad, she spoke mainly english, even though Zermatt is in the German speaking part of Switzerland.
“Zermatt is a very small ski town, similar to Aspen because it’s a popular tourist destination,” Reid said. “It sits on the border of Italy and France. Sometimes I could ski into Italy.”
Living in a foreign country can be difficult when acclimating to the new culture, especially when you are still enrolled in a vigrous high school course of study, as Reid was when she was abroad.
“One weird thing is that a lot of the taxis are electric, which is great, but they’re almost silent so I almost got hit a couple of times,” Reid said.
She also told me about a few of her favorite things about studying abroad. A few of those things included fondue, torte fille, crepes, and gelato (foods originating in all three countries she spent time in: Switzerland, Italy, and France).
“I miss the people the most though, I made so many good friends,” Reid said. “And while I missed Aspen and my friends here, I miss being away from regular life, it was like being in a bubble of new experiences for a couple of months.”
Annabelle Ward is spending her entire sophomore year abroad in Olavarría, Argentina, traveling through Rotary Youth Exchange. She will live with two different families, like Psaledakis. I spent an evening FaceTiming with her, and got to hear all about her favorite parts of the trip.
“The people,” Ward said. “The food too, but it’s the people that make this experience so incredible. And I’ve gotten so close with all of them.”
Ward has enjoyed playing soccer, eating empanadas, and spending time with her new friends. She was also preparing for a two week trip with her family when I spoke to her.
“I am on summer break right now, but when I got here I was in school,” Ward explained when asked about her schooling in Argentina. “But a lot of the time the teachers were on strike because they weren’t getting paid enough so I probably only had two months of school, and I’ll return for another semester in March.”
All three students studying abroad had similar thoughts when it came to what they had learned. Psaledakis, Reid, and Ward all noted that it had improved their resolve and adaptability, because they often meet unfamiliar situations and are forced to take a few steps outside their comfort zone. Traveling the world seems to be a great way to learn how to do that.
When Ward was asked if there’s anything she wanted to add she told me, “Throughout this experience I’ve met so many people from all over the world and I want to go visit all my new friends one day. Sometimes I get a little worried, because I’ve learned there are so many wonderful places in the world I want to see, and I just don’t know if there’s enough years in my life to see it all.”