“Afraid?” Grade 11 ISP student Mila wasn’t exactly afraid to leave home for the first time and travel 9,000 km away to attend San Francisco’s renowned International High School of San Francisco (IHS). “I knew that my mom was only at the other end of the phone. So I felt fine,” she said in retrospect.
A win-win situation, the ISP-IHS exchange allowed Mila to spend last spring in Hayes Valley, San Francisco attending IHS, where she set out on a mission to improve her English and learn about American culture. It also allowed IHS student Mercedes to spend six months in Paris last winter, soaking in French culture in the capital city and focusing on developing her French skills at ISP.
Staying with Mercedes’s family in Sea Cliff, a neighbourhood in northwestern San Francisco adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, Mila quickly settled into her new Californian life. “The beach was right next to the house. So I went to the beach all the time to do my homework—it was great!” She quickly fell in love with her new home. “San Francisco reminded me a lot of New York ... it was very open-minded, very green, very sporty. At school, everyone was really open and welcomed me … It was nice because I was able to make connections with so many people. I still keep in contact with most of them.”
Mila enrolled in classes including Design, French, Spanish, English, Math, PE, Geography, and Physics. She also attended the school’s Diversity Council meetings. Being immersed in America was motivating. “I really wanted to push myself in English.” Push herself, she did. Delving into high level literature classes at native English level, Mila came back from California confident in her English, having greatly improved her vocabulary, writing skills, and fluency. But English isn’t the only area in which Mila gained confidence. “Settling into life in America was a lot easier than what I expected.”
Moving to a new country, making friends, and rebuilding a foundation in a new culture, Mila is now self-assured in her ability to handle the complexity of unfamiliar territory and situations. “I didn’t realize how much I’d changed until I came home … For example, I had gotten used to being a lot more independent in San Francisco, which was great.”
Mila says of her future “If I can go to the States to study at university, I will. I’m looking at the different ways we can make it happen.” On advice she would give to ISP students thinking of studying abroad, Mila says “Grade 10 is the year to do an exchange. You are mature enough to leave your parents for four months, and the work load at ISP is not as much as it is in Grades 11 and 12.”
*In the photo, you can see Mila (on the left) with her American host family.
- Student Exchange