From Paris for $50 to K-Pop Immersion in Seoul, 19 Annandale High School Students Go Abroad on Summer Scholarships
Barcelona. Berlin. Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Ghana. Rome. These are some of the places where nineteen Annandale High School students will be spending their summer, aided by a collective $75,085 in scholarship funding they won after being encouraged to apply for the grants by their teachers.
“For $50, I’m going to Paris,” Meilhi Leon, a freshman says. Meilhi says she learned about the opportunity, which comes through CIEE Global Navigator’s School Partnership program, in French class.
Annandale High School has a special partnership with the Council on International Exchange that results in some funding being earmarked for the school because it is one of roughly 80 schools across the U.S. that meet Global Navigator School criteria. Those standards include a commitment to world language instruction and having staff who are working to build awareness of scholarship opportunities to study abroad among their community.
“At first I didn’t think anything of it, but my French teacher said `You should apply for this,’” she says. “I looked at the website and thought: what’s the worst that could happen? Six essays later, three of more than 600 words, three that were under 250 words, here I am.”
Meilhi says she wrote about how she wanted to pursue opportunities her parents weren’t able to have. “Even though they didn’t do this, my parents really supported me, I wanted to take the chance, seize it and make them proud,” she says.
Junior Samantha Najera will go to Barcelona for $500 of her own money, she says. Samantha says she thought if nothing else, the application process would give her a leg up on her college admissions essays. She went for it, not expecting an acceptance. “It was a rush when I heard. New doors have opened for me,” she says.
Annandale High School teachers pitched the program to students as a great opportunity to learn how to fill out applications, a life skill they hope the teens will remember when they begin the college application process, says Laura Wells, who coordinates the school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. AVID classes seek to assist students with organization, writing and college/career awareness.
The study abroad opportunity was advertised to the whole school, parent meetings were held and some teachers made completing the application an assignment for their classes, Wells said.
“This chance to put themselves outside of their comfort zone is also important to success in college,” she says. “Studies show that one factor impacting the ability to adjust to college is having had an experience living away from your parents – whether study abroad, living on a college campus – so I am always trying to push kids to seek out these types of programs. It’s an enrichment opportunity.”
Jeannie Tarnue and Yeluna Tatinyuy, two juniors who are also friends, will head to the Yucatan Peninsula together. Jeannie will be participating in a program that focuses on leadership and social change.
“I want to make an impact on the community,” she says. “This should help me in Spanish class in school as well, plus I’ve seen some pictures online that show pictures of beaches and caves. I can’t wait.”
Sophomore Saul Soriano already speaks Spanish, but was intrigued by another component of the program in Mallorca: science.
“The program is Mediterranean Coastal Ecosystems & Sustainability, since my top career choice right now is marine biology, this will be really helpful,” he says. “I’ll be near the beach, with animals on an island, my Mom said you definitely have to do this, take the opportunities I didn’t have.”
Meredith Hedrick, Annandale High School’s English for Teachers of Other Languages department chairwomen, reminded students in a meeting preparing for their trip that they will need to be accepting of different customs and behaviors during their journey.
“Be open to experiences: their communication methods, their dancing, their food – you will need to be open to different meals, you have to eat at some point, right?” she said. “You guys will also need to be flexible. Some days will be better than others, most of you will have a host family. Will there be a grandmother who lives with you? Other teenagers or maybe a baby? Be open, be flexible and have fun.”
Sophomore Sarah Mai, an avid K-Pop fan, is headed to South Korea for a program that seeks to teach participants about the culture and history of K-Pop. It will also help give her a jump start on the Korean classes she plans to take in school next year, she said.
“I hope to come back with new perspectives on the culture, the stuff that is hard to learn in a classroom,” she said.
Alvaro Erazo, a junior, has loved the TV show Rome for years, he says. “They go all over Italy, the landscape, the sites, it all got in my head from the show.”
When he saw Rome was an option through the program, he jumped on it. “I thought wow, I could go there and see it myself. I took a shot on the scholarship, and I scored.”
“I’m the first in the family to visit Europe, according to my grandparents.”