Sonny Kalsi regrets the fact that he never studied abroad. Luckily, his professional career has taken him across the globe to live in cities across four continents. Over an 11-year span, he worked in Sydney, Los Angeles, London and, finally, Tokyo. It was there that he would cross paths with his future wife Michelle, an American who was also there on business.
Early on, the Kalsis set the stage for an immersive family life abroad. The couple’s children — son Devon, 21, and daughter Cameron ES’20, 18 — attended pre-school in Tokyo with kids from around the world. “It was like a mini-United Nations,” he explains, “They got to know the children of ambassadors. It’s nice they were exposed to that at such a young age.” Now a student at Brown University, Devon has spent time abroad and is fluent in Spanish. Cameron, a member of The Spence School class of 2021, is college-bound in the fall with plans for more study abroad in her future. “My kids have a diverse set of friends around the world, and I think that has really shaped their thinking,” he says.
The CEO of New York City-based BentallGreenOak (BGO), a global real estate investment and management platform, Kalsi has become a big fan of the eye-opening benefits of SYA since his daughter’s return from Zaragoza. Like every other SYA Class of ’20 parent, he was closely monitoring developments as the pandemic unfolded abroad last March. He recalls the moment he knew it was time for Cameron to come home.
“It was Wednesday night, March 11, and the President was on TV talking about closing U.S. borders. I called her at 3:00 a.m. (her time) and told her to start packing.” he says. “Cam traveled from Zaragoza to Barcelona to catch a flight to London and made her way home on her own. It was right out of Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” he comments, “I’m not sure she could have done that before SYA.” And, more recently, when it came time to approach the college process, he says Cameron knew exactly what she wanted. “I credit that to her seven months abroad.”
Despite the shortened school year, he says Cameron is excited to return to Spain to visit her host mom, with whom she stays in regular contact. “I went from being the reluctant parent of having my daughter go abroad during one of the final years we’d have time with her at home, to being really glad she did it.”