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Culture Opens Eyes and Strengthens Foreign Ties

Abby Cacho ’13, Elizabeth Perez ’13 , and Sabrina Zaldaña ’13 are three of many Deerfield students who traveled outside the country for their junior year.

Cacho and Zaldaña spent the course of last year living in Rennes, a city in northwestern France, about five hours from Paris, while Perez lived in Zaragoza, Spain.

All SYA students live with a host family for the year. “From the beginning, we connected.” Zaldaña said. “They were very open about everything. They were my family and treated me like their own kid, and there was no exception to that.”

She had two little brothers, ages seven and twelve, and a mother and father. She said the home stay was by far her favorite part of the experience.

“We definitely argued, but then we would cry together and laugh together,” Zaldaña said. “It was all part of growing together as a family. They would be my first reason to go back to France.”

The SYA program offers students many opportunities for independent travel. Zaldaña traveled to Barcelona and all over France.

“My group had a saying when we went to Paris on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “We were in the City of Love, on the day of love, hopefully with the person we loved.”

Cacho loved the traveling because she built friendships with the other students. “We were all foreigners and the French was hard. So by May, we could not have been closer because of all the travel we did together.”

The most surprising part for Zaldaña was the intensity of the school week. She woke up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the bus to school. Classes began at 8:10 and ended at six on certain days. She came home at 10, ate dinner, and completed eight subjects of homework. Six out of her eight subjects were taught in French.

The education system was also a difficult part for Cacho. “They have a much different learning style than we do at Deerfield. It was very lecture-based and didn’t allow much discussion. Having attended Deerfield, I have learned always to speak my mind, but in France, it’s definitely a different system where they talk at you rather than with you.”

She recommended every student take a school year abroad.

“A lot of people are scared to do it because they will miss out on a whole year of Deerfield,” she said. “You don’t miss out on anything. You gain more and come back a better person.”

Perez, who went to Zaragoza, Spain, said, “I wouldn’t say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because you can do it in college, but having that experience in high school is amazing.”

Perez added, “But it is for a certain type of person. I would recommend really being comfortable with yourself and knowing your place before if you go.”

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