Studying Abroad: It’s Not Too Good to Be True

By Janae Taft ’18

While some high school students crave the comfort of their own home and family, a select few have that desire to explore, learn and grow outside of their country. Unfortunately, for many of those few, the prospect of going abroad in high school stays what it seems: too good to be true.

However, thanks to AFS, the dream of spending an extended period of time in another country has never been closer to coming true for Conestoga Valley High School students. The AFS organization (American Field Service) was founded in 1915 and has given over 400,000 high school students the chance to study abroad. The organization offers many different scholarships to study in countries all over the world. For example, students have the choice of going to Panama for the summer or enjoying the Turkish culture for a school year.

Every fall, AFS visits CV to educate students about the wonderful opportunities they offer. The most popular scholarship offered is the Speedwell Scholarship.

The Speedwell scholarship is a full scholarship, unlike many of the other scholarships the AFS organization offers. It is open to all high school students in the Susquehanna Valley area. Students can pick from forty possible countries to study abroad in, ranging from Ghana to New Zealand. Twenty Speedwell scholarships are offered each year, and generally about forty students apply.

Students are placed with a host family for the time they study abroad, but one stipulation of the Speedwell Scholarship is that it is for a full year and not just a semester. Many students from CV have taken advantage of this opportunity in the past, like Tess Rogers, who is currently in Italy for the 2015-2016 school year.

Students must submit certain materials in order to be considered for the scholarship, including proof of application for a passport or the actual obtaining of one, four scholarship essays completed by the applicant, signed participation agreement (to be read and signed by the parents and applicant), a parent statement completed by the applicant’s parents, and a letter of recommendation by a teacher or counselor for the applicant. Applications are due in mid-to-late January every year for that current year’s exchange program.

Overall, the Speedwell Scholarship is a great opportunity that is well worth the work. It is definitely the chance of a lifetime, and students who have gone abroad in the past can testify to that. Studying abroad creates new perspectives on the world, makes for a more well-rounded person and benefits participants with knowledge of (at least) a second language.