Moving to a new school can be difficult, but imagine moving to a new school in a foreign country. Sophomore Sophia Rosen has made the decision to continue her school year in Guatemala for a full semester.
Rosen has applied to Valle Verde, a transfer school in Guatemala. If accepted, she plans to take a semester off of American school, starting in Jan. 2016 and ending in October to continue her studies in Guatemala. This will not be under a foreign exchange or ambassador program; Rosen is doing this out of her choice. Her education in Guatemala will not correspond with her education in America. Her credits also may not transfer when she comes back.
“I want to expand how I see the world,” Rosen said. “I want to expand my education … I want to see how strict it is and how school is over there a�� like the difference in homework and teachers.”
Valle Verde, a private bilingual school with locations throughout Guatemala and El Salvador, has been operating for more than 40 years. To apply, the school requires students to take a series of exams. These include examinations of English and Spanish skills, as well as a personality test, which is taken into consideration when the admission process begins.
“You can go in as an exchange student for a period of time and meet new people. I went for a week and I already met new people who I’m still really close with,” Rosen said.
To begin the application process, the student must choose to withdraw from MCPS and have a parent fill out a form, which is then submitted to RHS registrar Toni Waterton. If they choose to come back, they must enroll in the MCPS school in their residence zone.
Counselor Secondary James Iannuzzo said, “I think exposure to different cultures has countless benefits [that] I would hope everyone has an opportunity to experience.”
Rosen’s sister, Michelle, is now 28. She attended the same school in her high school years. Rosen’s mother, Ericka Aguirre, found out about the program through relatives. Girls in the family have been attending this school for a long time and Aguirre thought it was a great idea to continue the tradition.
“I support the idea of [Sophia] studying abroad because it allows her to explore the other half of her culture and family a�� I know this will help her in the future because this journey will open her perspective and transform her into an insightful young woman,” Aguirre said.
Gap-years and semesters abroad have become a popular trend among American students. According to a 2014 Open Doors report, the number of students studying abroad has increased by two percent since 2007, resulting in an all time high of 289 thousand students from 2012 to 2013.
“It’s a difficult transition. But support from everyone, and knowing that I can do it and knowing that it won’t be difficult or struggling will help a lot,” Rosen said.