High School Student Studies Abroad

Taylor Stern, Staff Writer

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If you’ve ever heard any parent, teacher or counselor talk about studying abroad, you’ve likely heard how amazing the experience is or could be. You may hear how it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you’ll meet amazing people and learn so many amazing things. It sounds incredible, but is it better suited for high school or college students? Junior Carly Whay decided to take a chance and study abroad in high school.

“Is high school the right time? I think that’s a very individualized question and it’ll be interesting if we see an increase in numbers in the coming years.” Principal Tim McCarthy said.

Whay recently finalized her decision to study abroad in Israel for her second semester in 2019. Whay is the only Parkway Central student going abroad this year but she is not the first in Central’s history. All previous Central students that have studied abroad all did the same Israel trip through the same program Whay’s going through, UJR Heller High, based in New York.

“I didn’t actually start thinking about it until last year,” Whay said, “I realized that second semester junior year is the most common time to go. I knew if I wanted to make it happen, I really needed to start thinking about it.”

Whay discovered the program she’s going with through family friends plus other Central students that have done the same trip in years prior.

“I kind of already had an upper hand in getting in because I’ve heard so much about it and how to say the right things in order to get in,” Whay said.

The school counselors help students and their families determine what courses to talk and what credits they will receive while abroad. The Heller High program is a highly accredited and established program that makes it very easy for students to spend an entire semester there and still earn the same or similar credits that they would have earned at Central High.

“Once a student returns, I then review their transcript from Heller High and have the courses that they completed added to their Central High transcript,” Whay’s counselor, Priscilla Greenwood said. “I also meet with my junior before they leave to do their course requests for senior year since they are gone during course registration in January.”

Whay’s counselor, along with the other administrators whose approval was mandatory, were very supportive of her desire to study abroad and helped encourage all the benefits Whay would get the chance to experience.

McCarthy said, “studying abroad gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture surrounded by different language which can really help form your perspective on the world.” Greenwood also agreed that a few of the benefits are being able to experience another culture, make life long memories, and gain lots of independence.

For Whay, the most important thing she hopes to gain is worldly insight.

“I’ve been confined to the same routine and same environment everyday for the last 16 years. I really want to switch it up and learn more.” Whay said.

Along with all the amazing things available to learn, deciding to study abroad for a whole semester also has many opportunity costs. Along with being away from your family and friends for the whole duration of the trip, there’s also a huge financial commitment involved that can be a big challenge for prospective study abroad students.

“Securing a scholarship was definitely one of the main problems,” Whay said. “But my mom and I would do anything to make it happen.”

Another con can be the mere lack of a traditional high school experience. You’ll have to be prepared to miss school dances, going to Friday night games and sporting events, and if you play a sport, you won’t be able to participate in it for the season you’re missing. But with a strong enough inclination to go, those things will likely all be worth it. While some students think leaving home would be a piece of cake, the biggest con might be the most unexpected.

“A big con will just be feeling homesick,” Whay said. “But I think the biggest con I’ll end up facing is having to come home.”

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