by Aidan Shadis
When I moved to Pamplona, Spain, I didn’t expect to see anyone from Maine, let alone my hometown, for a very long time. However, as chance would have it, it only took a few months before a Damariscotta native was staying within a mile from my house. Lincoln Academy graduate and international opera singer Kate Aldrich came to Pamplona while on tour, and through the mutual connection of my mother, we were able to meet up.
We talked about Maine, the differences between living in the United States and Europe, and just about how we live in a small world. I learned that her sister also studied abroad while attending Lincoln Academy, and that she continued to enjoy the benefits of having lived abroad, long after completing her course. It got me thinking about how I and other high school students studying abroad are benefiting from the experience, and why I recommend it to all current and future Lincoln Academy students in particular.
As studying abroad in high school becomes more popular, the opportunity to do so becomes easier. More and more high schools are beginning to accommodate programs abroad, and more and more programs are being established. Lincoln Academy, however, is an extremely study abroad friendly school and has been ahead of the game for decades. The administration at Lincoln has recognized the benefits of international study and has promoted it within the school, going as far as to even offer academic scholarships to allow a wider range of students to participate.
Studying abroad in high school as opposed to college provides many distinct opportunities, but also a myriad of obstacles. Students that decide to study abroad in high school will most likely be leaving home for the first time, which in itself can present difficulties. Coupled with the action of living in a foreign country, this situation can really test a student’s independence. College students, on the other hand, will have already made the transition from living at home, and will be more comfortable on their own. However, living in a foreign country, especially one where a different language is spoken is likely to push students out of their comfort zones, regardless of their age.
The most important reason that I can see for studying abroad in high school rather than college is that students will enjoy all of the benefits of the experience earlier in life. Before they are even accepted to a university, they will have possibly learned a new language, made international friends, gained new perspectives on the world, and made decisions or connections that resulted in life changing experiences. Universities know this and while studying abroad in college might help someone land a job, studying abroad in high school has the possibility of landing them a college acceptance.
My casual meeting and conversation with a Damariscotta native made me appreciate my being here and all of the advantages that I am experiencing as a high school student studying abroad. The fact that I was able to have an in-depth conversation about the differences between our home, high school, and lifestyle, and those of another part of the world, made me realize that I am gaining so many new perspectives simply by existing outside of the normal American education system. After meeting with Kate, I was even able to attend her opera, Parténope, an opportunity that I would have never had in Damariscotta. It is for this reason, and for all of the opportunities like this, that I am extremely grateful to be studying in Spain.
(Aidan Shadis is a senior at Lincoln Academy, currently spending the school year in Pamplona, Spain with Nacel International. He is the son of Brooke Cotter and Gabe Shadis of Damariscotta.)