They say that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. Like many of their classmates, SYA’s very first Alvarez Global Scholars will tell you that they also made traditional cider, cheese, lifelong friends, and memories that will help shape how they ultimately see the world.
Frances Lebowitz IT’20 of Berkeley, Calif. and Annika Milliman FR’20 of Hanover, N.H., traveled to Viterbo and Rennes, respectively, last fall thanks to a generous financial aid endowment established by Carlos and Malú Alvarez FR’00P through The Campaign for SYA. Each year going forward, two outstanding public high school students who couldn’t otherwise afford an SYA education will receive a full scholarship to study abroad.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced an abrupt exit from their campuses and a subsequent shift to online learning, both 2020 Alvarez Global Scholars agree that their six months abroad provided an invaluable experience. They have set the bar high for this new scholarship program, finding the silver lining while navigating an incredibly challenging year.
Frances Lebowitz IT’20:
“One of the most magical things about Italy is that you just never get used to its beauty,” said Lebowitz, who had been looking forward to traveling to Cyprus to study the conflict between Southern Cyprus and Northern Cyprus when the pandemic altered her plans. She did, however, have the opportunity to go behind the scenes at a cheese factory in Parma, and explore the science involved in creating the perfect sourdough starter in her agroecology class.
“Rather than dwell on the ‘what could have beens,’ I’ve decided to simply be thankful for the life-changing six months I was able to spend in Italy,” she said. “It might sound unrealistic, corny even, but I changed and matured more in that time than I have in my entire life, and SYA has truly changed my life forever.”
As the youngest in her family at home, Lebowitz was thrilled to have a little brother — and five cats — in Viterbo. Since leaving Italy, she has been checking in regularly with her host family via WhatsApp. “Getting to be a part of someone else’s family is always a privilege, and I feel fortunate that I was able to experience that through SYA’” she said. “From my classmates, to my teachers, to local professors, I have met more extremely dedicated people this year than I have in my whole life.”
In advance of her junior year at Berkeley High School (Calif.), Lebowitz has enrolled in some online summer courses as she begins the college search process. “Ironically, one of my greatest career aspirations is to become an epidemiologist or an infectious disease specialist,” she said. “My other career interest is to be a pediatric emergency doctor or a pediatric oncologist.”