Studying abroad can be one of the most meaningful experiences in a person's life. By doing so, students have the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and pursue their studies in a foreign country. This allows them to broaden their horizons and learn valuable lessons which extend well beyond the classroom. They can explore the unknown, establish meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life and experience new cultures and ways of living, which ultimately leads to a deeper understanding of themselves and the world at large. “I think it’s important for ASF to offer this opportunity because it allows students the experience of living and studying in another place, away from our usual comforts, and still knowing you can come back after a year,” shares Alexis Canasi, grade 7 student who will study abroad next school year.
Studying abroad from grade 7 to 8, and from 8 to 9 are the most popular choices for students. They can go as early as grade 6, although I think they appreciate the experience more when they are older,” shares Ellen Bello, grade 8 counselor. “Students can reserve up to two years and can choose to go anywhere in the world. “It’s best if they choose a school which shares the same core classes and which has the same requisites to fulfill if they want to come back to ASF. These requirements need to be met in order to comply with the SEP in Middle School and graduation requirements in the Upper School,” shares Ellen.
Another important benefit to studying abroad is the opportunity to discover oneself while gaining an understanding of a different culture. Being in a new place alone can be overwhelming at times, and it tests one's ability to adapt to diverse situations while being able to problem solve. “I think this experience will give me the tools I need to become more independent and free-willed when I return. It will allow me to experience how life is in other places, show me how I have to take care of myself and face me with challenges to solve on my own, without anyone’s help,” expresses Manuel Gutiérrez, grade 7 student who will study abroad next school year.
Angie Alemán, whose son, Pablo Costemalle Alemán, is currently studying grade 8 abroad, at Sedbergh School in northern England, shares her perspective as a parent on this. “It was important to help him be more independent, study in another country and to have new experiences culturally. We saw the option to study abroad as an opportunity for Pablo to self-manage himself and submerge himself in his independence. Our main concern as parents is that he enjoys his experience in this country and school life. We don’t worry about him being far away, as we communicate regularly through WhatsApp chat and Facetime.”
Pursuing an education abroad, as opposed to merely visiting a country as a tourist, allows students to experience different styles of learning, helping them become stronger candidates for university admission and scholarship programs. “This is something I have been planning for the past two years, I have always thought it would be great to discover a new country, to get to know how people from different cultures interact with each other, their different styles of learning and their culture,” highlights Manuel.
Studying abroad is tradition in many families. Originally, students were sent to boarding school to improve their English. At the American School this isn’t necessary for our students, but it allows them to experience what it is like to live in a country where English is the main language,” explains Patsy Hubp, Director of Admission and Financial Aid.
Living in a different country allows students to immerse themselves in a new language by diving straight in. “My sister went to London. I went to visit her school and another one and right now I’m deciding which one I want to go to. I chose London because of the English language. I think it would be very hard to go somewhere with a different language. I think London is a really nice city and the culture is great too,” explains Alexis.
Students can choose to study abroad with other classmates, although going solo is a great opportunity for students to really put themselves out there and live the experience to the fullest. “I’m going alone, although I’m sure I’ll meet other girls from Mexico at the school I’m going to in England, but not anyone I know right now,” says Alexis. Manuel shares the same opinion “I wanted to study abroad alone because I look forward to meeting friends from other countries. If you go with someone, you’ll always be together and it will be harder to socialize with new people.” Ellen adds, “I never recommend anything but I tell students, ‘A lot of students are applying to that school, if you really want to have a great experience and you really want to step out of your comfort zone, go somewhere else where you don't know anyone. The ability to adapt is a very powerful skill!’”
Like future employers, graduate school admission boards look highly on study abroad experiences. Students that study abroad display diversity and show that they aren’t afraid of seeking out new challenges or putting themselves in challenging situations. “I think it's going to be a bit hard to adapt, as it’s normal to miss your family, Mexico and your friends, but I think that in the end, it’s a great experience to learn new things and really become independent and organized. I think it represents a great chance to go somewhere and learn something new, and then come home and share the things you’ve learn with ASF,” adds Alexis.
Most importantly, students who have studied abroad show just how committed they are to their education. Graduate schools regularly look for candidates who will bring a unique aspect to their college. Students who have studied abroad have shown that they have the curiosity and educational acumen to be a leader in graduate school. “We perceived that Maria was well prepared to undertake the challenge. Her English is excellent and that has helped her feel at ease, experience success abroad and have the opportunity to be challenged with new classes. ASF also provides students an opportunity to relate to international students, exposing them to different cultures and ways of thinking. This has helped Maria feel at ease in an international environment, be open to different ways of thinking and be interested in learning more about the different cultures,” shares Virginia Solorzano, whose daughter Maria Perdomo is currently studying grade 9 in Canada at the Ridley College near Toronto.
In the spirit of the school’s mission, ASF embraces the opportunity for students to gain an overseas academic and living experience as of Middle School. All students are free to apply as long as they meet the application deadlines and have a minimum of an 80% overall GPA or grade level equivalent, in the division, with no failing grades (below 60) and are not currently on academic, behavioral or attendance probation. The school leadership reserves the right to consider other academic, behavior, and/or social factors to determine final approval.
The process starts at home, with students and their family agreeing that studying abroad is an option, and carefully studying all the deadlines and requirements. “Next, students will come to us with a list of school’s they want to apply for and after asking their teachers for recommendations, they are ready to apply.” Students mostly go Switzerland, the UK, East and West Canada and the U.S. East Coast. “We took our time researching different options. We attended the boarding school fair at ASF, and also received guidance from a friend of mine who works for ADASTRA, which is a company that works directly with the schools. María also dedicated time to researching the schools herself. She was very motivated to go!” Shares Virginia, whose daughter Maria Perdomo is currently studying grade 9 in Canada at the Ridley College near Toronto.
As a rule, ASF cannot recommend schools for study abroad however, parents are always guided through the process. “Parents really become involved. They come in and ask questions in order to find the best school for their child,” explains Patsy. “Even though I had no idea of where I wanted to go, I did know I wanted to meet people from other countries. I chose the Oratory School, which is one hour away from London. It’s an all-boys Catholic school and I really liked their old-style of learning. It’s one of the oldest boarding schools there is and it was a great place,” articulates Manuel.
The school selected to study abroad must comply with ASF´s academic program, making sure classes are compatible, in order for students to be able to return to ASF after the study abroad period and integrate back into their grade level as normal. Students pay a study abroad fee to reserve their space to come back to ASF as long as they comply with the readmission requirements. Students who do not pay the fee to reserve their space are welcome to come back to ASF, although they will need to reapply to the school and consider that their reentry is subject to space. If they are readmitted, they will need to pay a re-entry fee equal to the study abroad fee. For more information about the process, please refer to the Family Handbook or the application form attached to this article.
ASF really gives students the opportunity to enrich their views as IB Learners and global citizens of the world,” expresses Angie. “Maria is in her second semester abroad now. We saw her during winter break and were already able to perceive increased independence and self-confidence. So far, it has been an amazing experience for her and it was great to see her excited to return for her second semester abroad,” adds Virginia.
Readmission to ASF is contingent on the student’s academic performance and conduct during his/her attendance abroad. While attending the other school, transcripts must have an average of 80% or above with no failing grades based on the ASF grading system, good recommendation forms and students must have appropriate conduct.
“I think it’s great that ASF gives us the opportunity, because it’s a school that welcomes other nationalities and cultures and encourages diversity, so offering this option allows students to go to other places and better understand the diverse ASF community, where different nationalities make up a better and stronger social bond in the school and it makes kids learn about how independent they can be,” concludes Manuel.
For more information about the option to study abroad, contact your child’s counselor.
To download the application form, please click here.