At some point during this semester, you may have noticed a lack of Class VII students on your sports team, at lunch, or in class and might have wondered, where are they? Many Class VII students are attending Semester-Away or School Year Abroad (SYA) programs around or out of the country during the school year. Every year representatives from each program visit Class VI students to inform them about the programs offered during their Class VII year. The students who take interest in the Semester-Away or SYA programs apply to the programs a few weeks after the information sessions. The programs run during either the fall or spring semester or over the course of the whole year. Eight Class VII students are currently attending Semester-Away or SYA programs. The programs that these students are attending include The School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington D.C., The Mountain School in Vershire, Vermont, and CITYterm at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York for the Semester-Away programs during the fall semester. The School Year Abroad programs that students are attending this year are School Year Abroad: China and School Year Abroad: Spain. An informative survey, sent out to all of the participants, documented the experiences of three students, whose responses give enriching insight into the events and experiences of the programs.
Please give a 1-2 line description of the program you are in and where it is located
Meera NP.: I am currently at The Mountain School which is located in Vershire, Vermont.
Mikako M.: I am at CITYterm which is an experience based semester away program in New York that takes learning in classrooms and transfers it to learning opportunities in the city.
Lena V.: I am attending School Year Abroad in Beijing, China.
Which classes are you taking?
MNP: I am taking Honors English, Honors Environmental Science, Honors Physics, Honors Pre-Calculus, and Honors Spanish.
MM: Chinese 1, English, Honors Precalculus, Environmental Science, and Chinese History.
What are some of the activities/classes that you are able to take at the program that are not offered at Winsor?
MNP: Environmental Science as an academic class. We also have a block each day called “Work Program.” We are divided into multiple groups that change every day so that I am always working with new people and doing different jobs. I’ve worked in the gardens, in the forest chopping wood, in the kitchen helping prepare meals, or even learning how to orienteer a compass and learn the land of Vershire.
MM: We have Urban Core classes and lots of different projects like making a small magazine about an activist movement, event, or activist, expressing the Brooklyn Bridge in the form of art, reading buildings, giving a tour on a building in the Lower East Side, and many many more.
LV: Environmental Science and Chinese traditional arts (calligraphy, dance, martial arts).
What is the most rewarding or favorite part of your experience so far?
MNP: Probably that everything we do directly affects the school and the people here. I get to see a direct impact of my actions and the role I play in the community.
MM: I think the most rewarding part of my experience so far is meeting the people that I have met and having the learning experiences that I have had whether that is in the dorm community, within my friend group, or on the greater scale of New York.
LV: My Chinese host family. They’re incredible.
What has the program taught you that you would not have learned otherwise?
MNP: I have really learned how to live in the moment. Being without my phone, wifi, and human interaction outside of TMS, I have learned how to enjoy where I am and the people who I’m with. I hang out with anyone who I run into on campus and we are creative in ways to have fun even with not being in a city or large town. I’m really glad I can just be without worry or stress and just enjoy what is in front of me.
MM: At the core of the program, CITYterm is really about discovering who you are as a learner and who you are in many other settings as well. From the first half of the program, I have picked up on my strengths as a learner and have been able to tap into them when needed while also improving my “weaknesses” in a space that applauses and appreciates failure.
LV: I can do so much more than I ever thought I could. The key to overcoming fear is to give yourself no choice to turn back.
What do you enjoy the most about being in a different state/country and why? Are there any challenges?
MNP: At first I had trouble adapting to the rural aspect of Vershire since I’ve always lived in the city. However, I’ve really grown into loving being away from my normal life and just taking a break from my same life for 16 years.
MM: I love how busy and intricate New York City is. In Boston, I found myself going to the same places with the same 2 or 3 people and trapping ourselves in the places that we make a habit of going to. However, in New York, there are thousands of activities every weekend and just so many new places and new experiences that have yet to be discovered. For me the biggest challenge of being away from Winsor and away from home is the aspect of missing out on certain school traditions or just missing out on things that happen within your class, friend group, advisory, etc. I think that by having this challenge I have learned that I would have never been able to go through this experience without missing something and to come to terms with that.
LV: I enjoy doing new things every single day. That is both a benefit and a challenge. I didn’t go through culture shock coming here, but I do face challenges in day-to-day communication. However, I don’t regret my decision to take this step.
Are you playing any sports or doing any after-school activities? If so, what are they?
MNP: With Work Program every day it almost feels like a sport and after-school activity combined into one! I’m always reaching that 10,000 step goal on my FitBit! Hiking, chopping wood, harvesting plants, making cider, cutting down trees, learning how to read a topographical map and use it: these are just a few of the many activities we do. My day is packed full and by the end of the day I can’t believe how much I did.
LV: I am taking part in Chinese traditional dance, taijiquan, and martial arts.
What is one thing that your program has that you think Winsor should have (e.g. food, an activity or an event)?
MNP: I think that Winsor should have a “Winsor Olympics” event. The teams should be intermixed between all the classes. One event could be going to lunch and choosing the most nutritious meal possible. Another event could be going to each science room (Bio, Chem, Physics) and doing a small thing related to each subject in that room. This could be such a fun, hands-on, and Winsor-esque event!
MM: First of all the dining options here are endless and there’s basically 5 meals per meal that you have the option of eating. Second of all, there’s this whole other world of exploratory writing in which you take subject matter, themes, ideas etc and relate them to yourself to find a way in which what you are writing affects you directly. I think that bringing this whole up in the air talk about themes and motifs in a piece of writing can be brought down onto a personal level.
LV: Opportunities for group travel or field trips.
The experiences in the classroom, with new activities, in a different state or country, and with new peers at the SYA or Semester-Away programs described by students demonstrate their enthusiasm and excitement towards the programs. The SYA and Semester-Away programs strive to give Class VII students a way of enriching and deepening their knowledge of the world around them in a new setting and very much allow students to build on the knowledge they have acquired at Winsor. Each student has proven that going away for either a semester or a full year proves very rewarding, an remarkable and unforgettable experience.