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Sep 10, 2019

by Natalie Edwards '14

While many students study abroad in college, an increasing number of students are electing to study abroad in high school. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of university students studying abroad increased from 2.1 to 5.1 million, a 143% increase in just 17 years (UNESCO).

While a wealth of data attests to the benefits of studying abroad in college, there is almost no useful data on students who study abroad in high school. This lack of data is particularly surprising in light of the extraordinary benefits of a high school study abroad experience. Studying abroad in high school challenges students to adjust to a new culture, teaches independence and resiliency, provides an opportunity to further explore a given area of study before college, and, for the intellectually curious, it is the ultimate experiential learning opportunity.

Studying abroad not only offers students the chance to experience a new culture, but it also prepares students for the independence of college life. For 11th grader Kayla Sutton, this was precisely what attracted her to a semester at St. Stephen’s; as she explains, “I chose to come to St. Stephens because it was something new and different that I could do on my own. I also liked the idea of coming to a new city, especially Rome, and being independent instead of relying on the people in my family.”

For others, a study abroad experience helps them develop and refine their interests before college. For Mike D’Amore, spending his final year of high school in Rome offers him the chance to further his study of history and languages before university; Mike explains, “I am going to enter some sort of history program at university (hopefully with one or two languages attached) and jumped at the opportunity to do so during my senior year in Rome, a fantastic city with bountiful opportunity to immerse myself in both history and language.” St. Stephen’s’ strategic location at the top of the Aventine hill in Rome’s historic center offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in language and history. Here, students can study Latin and experience history while reading original roman inscriptions on the columns of the Roman forum, just a five-minute walk from our school.

When asked why she chose to come to St. Stephen’s for one semester, 10th grader R.L. Wheeler explained, “I love learning about Latin and art history, and the heart of Rome is the perfect place to do so! I also love traveling, but whenever I do, I always find myself wishing I could spend a longer amount of time in the places that I go to. So, my desire to immerse myself in a traveling experience and in what I am learning brought me here for the term!” For students like R.L., studying in Rome provides an opportunity that goes beyond studying her favorite subjects in a new environment, here, she can encounter and experience the people and monuments of her history textbooks. A semester or year abroad in high school is an excellent way to grow and mature before college, all while studying new subjects and exploring a new country, an experience that uniquely prepares students to succeed in college and beyond.

A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Natalie Edwards double majored in Art History and Archaeology and Economics. Natalie attended St. Stephen's as a boarder in 11th grade, and later returned to Bologna for a semester abroad during university. Natalie is fluent in Italian and is currently a Residential Assistant in the St. Stephen's Boarding Department and a Communications Office Assistant.