Checking in with Potomac’s Student Year Abroad Participants


Caroline Page

Caroline Page in France

The Student Year Abroad (SYA) program provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn in a new environment while immersing themselves in a foreign language and culture. SYA offers semester-long and year-long study opportunities.

The Current spoke to three of the five students participating in the program: junior David Hyde and senior Caroline Page, who are studying in Zaragoza, Spain, and senior Hazel Klitenic, who is studying in Rennes, France.

The Current: How has your experience been taking a school year abroad? What are the best parts of it? What are some difficult parts (if any)?

Hazel Klitenic: I have been having an amazing time! You gain a lot of independence which is awesome. I’ve made so much progress in my French and gained overall confidence. I do miss my family and bagels, however.

David Hyde: Life in Spain couldn’t be better. Just last week, I visited Madrid and got to see the works of some of my favorite artists in the museum El Museo de Prado y Reina Sofía. The best part about studying abroad in Spain is the independence. During my first week here, I just walked around the city not knowing that I would stumble across some of the most incredible sites in Zaragoza. There was definitely a struggle to adapt to the common culture and environment of Spain, considering I am not the most advanced Spanish speaker. However, challenges like that were helpful in teaching me how to improve.

Caroline Page: I would say the best parts of taking a school year abroad are fostering relationships with my host family and new friends and also knowing that my Spanish is improving daily. I feel much more integrated into the culture now that I live here, and I feel less like a tourist. Some things that are difficult are obviously being away from home and my family and friends, but I know they are always there to support me and that this experience is a way for me to build some form of independence.

The Current: What from Potomac life do you miss the most and why?

Hazel Klitenic: I miss the tofu days at Potomac lunch and my cross country team.

David Hyde: What I miss most about Potomac life is the sense of familiarity. In Spain there’s a lot of “new,” and for that reason, I sometimes miss the old. Things like advisory and assemblies really bring to me a sense of community and family as both a student and a friend of The Potomac School, so to lose that was a bit hard for me.

The Current: Why did you choose to take a student year abroad?

Hazel Klitenic: I chose to go abroad to experience new surroundings, people, and culture. I felt I outgrew Potomac and was searching for more fulfillment.

David Hyde: I came here to grow. Throughout my life, I have gone through various experiences, and every new one brought me some kind of lesson. To step away from your comfort zone and into a new environment/situation like I choose to do as a student abroad is something I believe will undoubtedly change me as a person. I want to come out of here not only accomplishing my goal to be a better Spanish speaker, but also my desire to have grown from this experience.

Caroline Page: I chose to do SYA because I have a Spanish and Colombian background that I feel doesn’t always shine through while I’m in the states, so coming here to Spain is an opportunity for me to explore that identity on my own. I have already felt more connected with Spanish culture because I realized that the values and culture in the household I grew up in align similarly to those in Spain. While here, I have also been told that I sometimes have a South American style of speech which makes me feel more connected to my Colombian roots (something I haven’t really felt connected to before because I have never been to South America). But this observation makes sense because a lot of key people in my life are South American.

In addition to the three students who discussed their time studying abroad, juniors Giselle Harvey and Emma Chun are also participating in the SYA program. Giselle is currently in Zaragoza, Spain for a full year, and Emma will be studying in Rennes, France for the second semester of the 2021-22 school year.

Participating in the SYA program has given Potomac students a wonderful opportunity to pursue their education while living in a different country and honing their foreign language/communication skills. Especially as we emerge from a difficult pandemic, these students have decided to make the most out of their final years at Potomac.