Four Rising Uppers to Attend School Years Abroad in Vietnam, Spain and China

While the Class of 2013 elects new Class Representatives and draws up housing plans for next year, four rising Uppers have chosen to take an alternate approach to their Upper year at Andover. Ben Griffiths ’13, Elliott Crofton ’13, Mimi Leggett ’13 and Richard Levy ’13 will be spending their Upper year abroad with the Student Year Abroad (SYA) program next year. Two additional students were also accepted to the program, although they have not confirmed that they will be attending SYA. Next year, SYA will offer abroad programs in China, France, Italy, Spain and Vietnam. In these foreign countries, students will live with a host family for the entire school year. Students will take classes in the native language, except for Math and English, at their respective SYA schools. Students must have taken two years of Spanish or French to study abroad in Spain or France, but there is no language pre-requisite for the Chinese, Italian, and Vietnamese programs, according to the SYA website. Crofton, who will be living in Hanoi, Vietnam next year, said that he enjoys going overseas and traveling. Crofton added that the inspiration to attend SYA came from his friends from home who have traveled to Vietnam and have told him how wonderful the country is. “When you travel you can never really get enough of a place. Staying someplace for an entire year will definitely be a great experience. I am young and I love being abroad, so I hope to spend as much time as I can doing that,” said Crofton. Crofton said that he is both excited and nervous to live with a host family. “On one hand, I might get a host family that I might end of really, but on the other hand, you never know, they could be completely crazy,” he added. Leggett will be spending next year in Zaragoza, Spain. Leggett said she knew right away that she wanted spend the year abroad in Spain when the SYA representative spoke about the program to her Spanish class. Leggett looks forward to traveling freely, navigating a new city, adapting to Spanish culture, and becoming fluent in the language. “This past summer, I worked at a farmers market. I got to use my Spanish with people who were coming to the market and couldn’t speak English. Because I was the only one who could communicate with them, I saw how beneficial it could be to be confident in my Spanish skills,” said Leggett. Griffiths and Levy will both be living in China next year. Griffiths said that his sister went to Spain with the SYA program when she was at Phillips Academy and that her sister advised him to go. He added that he chose to go to China because it seemed practical and he wanted to learn a completely new language. “I am nervous about the first few weeks because I do not speak a word of Chinese, and my host family will only speak Chinese. Hopefully, by the end of the year I will have a full grasp of the language,” said Griffiths. “I feel like the best way to learn the culture and the language is to spend time in the country, and I love the fact that I will be able to work there for nine months,” he added. Levy said that after studying Chinese for four years, his dream was to travel to China. He hopes to become fluent in the language, meet new people, and enjoy Chinese culture. “I am most nervous about the language barrier and not being able to communicate what I want to say all of the time. Hopefully this experience will help me improve my Chinese speaking skills,” said Levy. This year, ten students are currently abroad with the SYA program. One student is in China, four students are in France, two students are in Vietnam, and three students are in Japan. Catherine Carter, Instructor in Classics and Phillips Academy’s SYA coordinator, said that the students who attend the SYA program share in the classroom because they have seen and experienced so much throughout their travels. “It is an adventure and kids have to be courageous to tackle it, but they learn a lot about not just the language or the culture that they have studied here, but also how to live independently,” said Carter. “Students go to SYA to gain language and cultural fluency, but they return also with a love of adventure and the ability to embrace the unfamiliar.”