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Spreading the Green and White from Zermatt to Beijing

Most students have thought of taking a semester abroad, but rarely do they actually get the gumption to pack up their bags and move to another country for a term or more.

The fear of missing a considerable number of Greer nights and hockey games tends to lurk in the back of students’ minds, preventing action, but four students who threw this caution to the wind had the experience of a lifetime.

Daniel Rivera ’13, Tess Donovan ’14, and Alyssa Moreau ’14 spent their three months away from campus hiking and skiing in the Swiss Alps. Their base was a hotel at the edge of the town of Zermatt, where they had class, ate, and slept.

They managed to keep up with the rigorous curriculum, as well as take four to five hours each day to go hiking and rock climbing, a feat of gigantic proportion. Paragliding, helicopter-assisted ascents, and trips to Italy were all included in the routine.

Taking her own path, Katya Yudin ’12 spent the fall semester in China. With Beijing as home for three months, Yudin really got to know her way around.

“Sometimes we’d take the subway to a random stop and then explore. We would also spend a lot of time talking to strangers, which was probably my favorite part of the experience,” Yudin said.

Fully immersed in the culture, she took two Chinese courses a day, but said that the thing she missed most were the teachers and classes at Deerfield.

Three of the four students returned to campus at the beginning of the 2011 winter term. Rivera returned in 2010 and immediately got back into the groove.

“I have a lot of free time now,” Moreau commented. “I never realized how much we did at Swiss Semester.”

They now find themselves doing their homework and everything else much more efficiently. Donovan remarked that she is “more relaxed when handling something that’s just thrown at you.” Apparently scaling Swiss glaciers has helped them keep their feet on the ground at Deerfield.

Although learning all the current names and faces is tricky, Donovan and Moreau are slowly getting back into the swing of things, reflecting that the first few days “didn’t feel real” and that they missed the excitement of waking up on international turf.

Donovan commented that their time away gave them a “different perspective of DA,” as three months without computers and phones was a bit of a wake-up call about their dependency.

“Going to Deerfield, you’re in a bubble, and you don’t even realize it,” Rivera said, smiling.

All four students emphasized how much they have learned to appreciate the opportunities they have. “I met a lot of girls around my age who had to stop going to school after middle school so that they could help support their parents and help pay for their brothers’ education,” Yudin said. “I can’t imagine being in that position. I knew I was fortunate, but didn’t truly realize the extent until I went to China and learned about the hard lives these other people have.”

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