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Taking on the world: study abroad

Studying overseas broadens the mind, enriches the soul

She stood there, bicycle helmet in her hand, looked around and fell in love. It was her first day on the job as an unpaid intern, but she was in the London offices of Tiger Aspect Productions, the British film and television production company that gave the world the hit movie Billy Elliott—and St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School student Catherine Sneddon was pretty sure she had found where she belonged.

After six weeks of faxing, photocopying, fetching ice mocha coffees for leading man James Nesbitt, and herding 40 extras into place for a scene in an aerobics studio, she was certain she had found what she wanted to do with her life.

"I got to skip ahead and see what it will be like for me in the future," Sneddon, 18, said last spring, back in class at her Oakville, Ontario school. Still wide-eyed about the work experience she lined up for herself as part of her school's three-stage external studies program, she's decided to take a three-year television production course in Great Britain.

"I don't think school or university could have prepared me for this," she says, then stops herself and smiles, because it was precisely her school that showed her the way of her future.

Not many people would argue the homily about travel broadening the mind. In countries such as South Africa, Australia, and Poland, students graduating from high school routinely experience what's known as a "gap year" before starting university. They travel abroad to work, perhaps as an au pair helper to a family or as volunteer staff in a British school. Although this hasn't as yet caught on in many Canadian public schools, private and independent schools have long offered their students a variety of travel educational experiences.

Some schools travel and study abroad a centrepiece of the curriculum. St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School has designed a successful and popular multi-faceted, multi-level external studies program.

The process starts early at St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School, where Mandarin is a compulsory subject and classes stop for two weeks every November when the school's S3 students, or Grade 10, experience an overseas exchange program. By S5, or Grade 12, the school has earmarked 220 hours of school timeor two uninterrupted monthsfor students to participate in a variety of opportunities, including working as teaching assistants in two Beijing schools.

"We want to offer something not easily replicated as a family vacation," says Judy Ross, director of the school's external studies program.

"I think we're the only school who've got it in steps in really formulated programs," she says. "Nobody has it quite on the scale we do."

The Canadian College Italy (CCI: The Renaissance School) is Canada's only high school located in Italy itself, in this case in a medieval town of 40,000 three hours east of Rome. And, since 1956, Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland has been a popular destination for students, especially those completing their final year of high school. It is the oldest Canadian high school in Europe; it is also non-profit.

"The recent tensions globally mean it's more important than ever to move forward," says Neuchatel principal Norman Southward. "People tend to cocoon themselves in times of tension, which leads to a lack of understanding when what is needed is a greater understanding of what it means to be in an increasingly complex world.

Then he adds: "It doesn't get much safer than Switzerland."

Nevertheless, Maeve Gamble, 19, from Sarnia, Ontario, was "terrified" when she left for her year at Neuchatel, especially when she walked into the Toronto Pearson International Airport and saw what she thought were 90 other students chatting away with each other like long-lost friends. She was comforted when she realized no one else knew each other, and that morphed into a feeling of excitement when they landed in Zurich and drove to the school. "The country was so cute and clean, typical Swiss. Red and white shutters, flowers in pots. It was so beautiful," she says. Her year at Neuchatel has been "like a dream," she says, what with a bike trip to Germany and school excursions to Burgundy and Paris. "I definitely feel more cultured."

Suzan Handley's globetrotting family was living in Belgium when she left for Neuchatel Junior College.

But she, too, was anticipating spending her school year in Switzerland. "When we first got here and got off the bus, I felt a definite excitement," Handley, 19, says in a phone interview from Switzerland. "It looked different and the air smelled different."

Simon Anderson's parents both attended Neuchatel Junior College in 1969. "They met here," the 18-year-old says. "It's kind of amusing."

It was also kind of inevitable he would spend a year there as well. He's not complaining. "I have learned how much there is out there and how different it is from North America," he says. Not only is he a convert to the cafe society and the European custom of two-hour lunches, he says he also appreciated the opportunity to watch televised coverage of the American-led war on Iraq from a European news media perspective.

And that is typical and palpable, Southward says. "When they are travelling and interacting with their pension families, they see the differences, even if sometimes it's only the nuances."

That is why CCI: The Renaissance School accommodates its 120 students in one of four family-style residences in Lanciano, Italy, creating what is in effect a house system and a secure place from which the students can explore the culture all around them, as well as maintain ther rigorous study schedules.

"There is a very close connection between the town of Lanciano and Canada; it was liberated by Canadians," says Lou Zeppieri, a Toronto-based admissions officer for the school. The school itself is a former monastery, which was used as a hospital  during the First World War for wounded Canadian soldiers.

"Old men approached me on the street to tell me how (the liberation) affected them," says former student Gillian German. "You can't help but have your eyes opened."

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List of private schools

  School Name Type Cost

Buffalo Seminary (est. 1851)  

  • Buffalo, New York
  • 9 to 12 Girls
  • Boarding school
  • Day school
Independent day and boarding school for college-bound girls. Our STEAM curriculum is unique, and creative, independent thinking is valued. Located in Buffalo, NY, girls access the best of city living. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
US $21,900 to US $52,750

HighSchools Boarding Day Girls 21900

St. Stephen's School, Rome (est. 1964)  

  • Rome, RM
  • 9 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (250 students)
  • Boarding school (47 students)
SSS Rome provides students with a culturally diverse and rigorous academic education. Graduates obtain the International Baccalaureate Diploma and American High School Diploma to enter renowned universities worldwide. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
EUR €25,145 to EUR €39,095

HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 25145

North Broward Preparatory School (est. 1957)  

  • Coconut Creek, Florida(USA)
  • K to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (325 students)
  • Day school (1296 students)
North Broward Preparatory School is a K-12 co-educational day and boarding school located in S. Florida located minutes from the beach with IB, AP, and LD classes set on 80 acres with year round hockey. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
US $24,200 to US $59,950

Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed 24200

Léman Manhattan Preparatory School (est. 2010)  

  • New York, New York(USA)
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (100 students)
  • Day school (800 students)
Léman Manhattan - the only boarding school in Manhattan, New York that delivers academic excellence that inspires your child for a lifetime. IB Diploma program and unique internship opportunities offered in the city. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Vancouver
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
US $5,500 to US $93,000

Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed 5500

A+ World Academy (est. 2015)  

  • World-wide travel
  • 11 to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (62 students)
A+ World Academy is an international boarding school on a Ship. 62 students in grades 11-12 and gap year live and sail on the 90 year old Tall Ship, ‘Sørlandet’, while they take AP classes and travel the world. [View profile]
  • Traditional
EUR €62,900

reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
Boarding Coed 62900

Neuchâtel Junior College (est. 1956)  

  • Neuchâtel, NE
  • 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (75 students)
Neuchâtel Junior College, in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, offers Canadian Grade 12 curriculum and AP to students from across Canada and beyond. [View profile]
  • Traditional
SF 30,000 to SF 56,000

Boarding Coed 30000

Admiral Farragut Academy (est. 1933)  

  • St. Petersburg, Florida
  • 8 to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (315 students)
Admiral Farragut Academy is located in beautiful, sunny, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA. Farragut is a military style school offering unique classes such as Aviation, Scuba, and AP Capstone. [View profile]
  • Traditional
US $51,800

HighSchools Boarding Coed 51800

EYC Academy (est. 2018)  

  • Town and Country, Missouri
  • 6 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (50 students)
  • eSchool school (200 students)
Alternative School for students 6-12th grade • One teacher, one student learning environment with integrated therapeutic services • Ongoing enrollment in full-time and dual enrollment ($10,500-$17,500) [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
US $15,000

MiddleSchools HighSchools Day eSchool Coed 15000

Chamberlain International School (est. 1976)  

  • Middleboro, Massachusetts(USA)
  • 6 to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (98 students)
  • Day school (22 students)
Co-ed therapeutic boarding school in Massachusetts for students 11-22 years. Student support is offered for learning disabilities, OCD, anxiety, ADHD, NLD, ASD, attachment disorder, bipolar disorder and depression. [View profile]
  • Traditional
US $60,000 to US $160,000

MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed 60000

The Gow School (est. 1926)  

  • South Wales, New York(USA)
  • 6 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (15 students)
  • Boarding school (135 students)
The Gow School is a special needs private school that offers programs for grades seven through 12 in South Wales, New York. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Traditional
US $48,000 to US $68,000

MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 48000

Hampshire Country School (est. 1948)  

  • Rindge, New Hampshire(USA)
  • 3 to 12 Boys
  • Boarding school (25 students)
A friendly, active boarding school for bright boys who have good intentions but who may be too impulsive, intense, or bothersome for other schools and whose intellectual interests may separate them from their peers. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
US $61,500

MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Boys 61500

Randolph-Macon Academy (est. 1892)  

  • Front Royal, Virginia
  • 6 to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (312 students)
There is a power within you. The power to soar above self-imposed limitations, to create something new, to become a leader. Come explore Randolph-Macon Academy, and discover The Power of Rise. [View profile]
  • Traditional
US $14,350 to US $40,525

MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Coed 14350

Montverde Academy (est. 1912)  

  • Montverde, Florida
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (891 students)
  • Boarding school (325 students)
Founded in 1912, Montverde Academy is an elite college preparatory school for students in grades Pre-K3 through post-graduate studies with a distinct student population from over 80 countries worldwide. [View profile]
  • Traditional
US $7,875 to US $51,350

reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 7875

Latest Articles

June 12, 2019
Study Abroad
Expand your child's horizons with a study abroad experience

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