Global Education

Study Abroad; Sailing to new horizons

By Annie Orenstein
Published: December 2008

Walking through the doors on the first day of high school, freshmen rarely dream of the confinement of four long years at Newton South.

Some opportunities, however, like studying abroad, make those endless years at high school a little less stressful and a little more realistic.

Various international immersion programs are offered at Newton South, stressing the importance of international communication in the modern world. Students who want to broaden their horizons and experience something different from the norm can join clubs, learn foreign languages, and participate in a broad range of activities.

I, however, wanted to do something not just out of the box, but also out of my own comfort zone. I have made the decision, therefore, to move to Portugal for six months at the end of the current semester.

I considered doing a month-long program abroad during the summer, but then I realized that a month really wasn’t a long enough time to truly immerse oneself in a culture. I first learned about a semester abroad from a friend who was hosting a girl from Norway.

She said that she was part of an organization called AFS and that she was in America for a full year. Previously, I thought that study abroad opportunities were only offered in college, but I soon figured out that this was not the case.

AFS, or American Field Service, was started when volunteer ambulance drivers from the two world wars brought their foreign experience home to America and created what would become a worldwide network of international “student exchanges. After student exchanges sparked a lot of interest in high school students, AFS started to focus on teenagers for the exchanges.

Portugal was not my first choice country. For months I was thinking that I was for sure going to New Zealand, an English speaking country. My advisor, however, told me that they had lowered the number of spaces down from ten to five, and of course my application came in sixth.

I knew close to nothing about Portugal when I told my advisor that it was my second choice. I realized that I would have to learn a lot more about the country, especially after I received confirmation of my acceptance in late October. The only Portuguese term I know so far, however, is “Eu falo mui pequino português, which ironically means “I only speak a little Portuguese.

Now, almost two months later, I am anxiously awaiting an assigned host family and destination, where I will be living from mid-January until July.

The most common question I have been asked about this trip so far is why now, when you should be stressing over countless honors classes and the SATs? My answer is why not? Why not get away from all the stress in Newton and go out and experience the real world in a foreign country? I have always been interested in global learning and this experience is the definition of a global education. My Newton life will still be here when I return for senior year in September, which makes the timing of the trip even better.

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