BY EMMA HUERTA
Imagine walking through the streets of Paris after class at a local university, or even getting to witness significant political decisions right before your eyes as you visit the Israeli legislature with your classmates. For many students, this is just part of their imagination. But with study abroad programs, it can be more accessible than one may think.
Educational experiences like these are normally a part of study abroad programs, or programs that allow students to attend a foreign school and reside in that area for the time being. According to CCHS Broward Advisor for Continuing Education (BRACE) Christine Siwek, only a small percentage of students end up taking advantage of the study abroad programs offered at their schools.
“Studying abroad is a fun thing to do and a lot of students like to do it because they get experiences in another country,” Siwek said.
CCHS alumni, David Lee, is one such student. For his freshman year of college, Lee is currently enrolled in the Paris Scholars Program. He is attending the American University of Paris, located in Paris, France, before transferring to George Washington University.
Besides his university tuition, Lee does not have to pay an additional cost for the Paris Scholars Program itself. However, he does have to take care of his Verified International Stay Approval (VISA) and other standard expenses in order to travel internationally.
Lee felt prompted to accept the proposal from George Washington University for two reasons: the interesting nature of the program and the ability to later transfer into the institution he originally applied to.
“Studying abroad is a fun thing to do and a lot of students like to do it because they get experiences in another country.”CCHS Broward Advisor for Continuing Education (BRACE) Christine Siwek
“When I received the proposal from George Washington University, I knew that I could not ignore such a unique opportunity,” Lee said. “As an International Relations major, George Washington University– [which is] the eighth top school for international affairs– provides an environment where I can better understand the world of international relations.”
As with any brand new experience, Lee had to overcome a series of personal obstacles, including missing his family and battling a language barrier.
“I do not know French,” Lee said. “I am currently enrolled in a French 1 Class and making use of the phrase ‘Parlez vous anglais [do you speak English]’.”
Regardless of these difficulties, Lee is grateful for the opportunity to not only transfer to his desired university after a year in Paris but also to experience freshman year of college in one of the most famous cities in the world.
“I think living abroad for a year will help me understand how diverse we are as a global community… [and] help me gain a better understanding of European/Parisian culture,” Lee said. “[Which is] something that cannot be gained during a short term visit.”
Typically run by universities, study abroad programs can also be found for students of various ages and interests, including sessions during the summer, winter or spring. In fact, CCHS junior Sarah Slann will be partaking in a unique international program known as Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI).
“I chose to participate in this program because it is an extremely unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience that I didn’t want to miss out on. My main motivation is to not have a traditional high school experience and instead make it my own.”CCHS junior Sarah Slann
“My specific program is an 18-week semester session that will take place right outside of the well-known city, Tel Aviv, in Hod HaSharon, Israel,” Slann said. “After first semester ends, I [will] leave for Israel at the end of January and return [back home] at the end of May.”
Instead of hearing about AMHSI through the institution itself, Slann had known about the program from acquaintances who previously participated. In fact, she first felt skeptical about having this unconventional high school experience until she conversed with a good friend who expressed gratitude for her AMHSI experience.
“I chose to participate in this program because it is an extremely unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience that I didn’t want to miss out on. My main motivation is to not have a traditional high school experience and instead make it my own,” Slann said. “I didn’t become interested in attending until my best friend participated in the 2018 fall semester of AMHSI and had the time of her life.”
Unlike the Paris Scholars Program, Slann will have to pay tuition for her participation in AMHSI. However, this aspect of the program eliminates two issues that naturally arise when students are considering an international program: finding housing and adjusting to the language. In this case, although Slann can read the Israeli language of Hebrew, she cannot speak it.
“In this program, I am not an exchange student living with families. Instead, all AMHSI students live in dorms on the Hod HaSharon campus,” Slann said. “The school is taught completely in English and our tuition includes room and board, meals, trips around Israel and a trip to Poland with our semester group.”
Like Lee, Slann is also looking at the personal benefits she can gain from her international study program. Specifically, she looks forward to creating fun memories with new friends during her time in Israel, as well as becoming a better person.
“One has to accept the fact that things are going to be different abroad. It is the individual’s choice to embrace those differences or reject them. [One should] embrace the differences instead of pushing them away. Be open to trying new things.”CCHS alumnus David Lee
“Studying in a new atmosphere does scare me a little bit, but I am confident that I will easily settle in by making new friends and trying to enjoy every minute,” Slann said. “The program includes so much freedom and exploring [that] I cannot wait to take part in. Overall, I believe participating in AMHSI will make me much more well-rounded, independent and adventurous.”
Even though study abroad programs provide interesting and new educational experiences for students that they can find personally beneficial, as demonstrated by both Sarah Slann and David Lee, they inevitably do not work for all students.
“Our kids are used to being in the bubble of Cooper City; some are more comfortable than others with moving far, far away,” Siwek said. “Sometimes there is scholarship money that’s available for good students to make that happen with the institution they’re enrolled in. They’ll have a lot of opportunities to do it, it’s just the desire to do it.”
While both Lee and Slann agree with this, Lee also encourages students to take the risk of studying abroad if they are considering it, as they provide an education that is unmatched by regular schools or colleges.
“One has to accept the fact that things are going to be different abroad,” Lee said. “It is the individual’s choice to embrace those differences or reject them. [One should] embrace the differences instead of pushing them away. Be open to trying new things.”