Since its founding in 1964, School Year Abroad has inspired over 8,500 young men and women to go outside of their comfort zones in pursuit of global citizenship. Of those, 18 have opted to embark on a second SYA adventure. Though their motivations may differ, these SYA “two-timers” are a resilient, curious group. Meet Mirielle Eaton ES’04 CN’06 and learn why she chose to attend SYA twice.
What inspired you to apply to SYA a second time?
I first chose Spain because I was studying Spanish in school, and China because “I wasn’t interested in Asia” and just wanted to double check my instinct to make sure.
My year in Spain consolidated my decision to study international affairs and my interest in Europe and South America (in part because of culture and in part because of language) and I thought I was especially not interested in Asia. Being a good SYAer, I thought “how can I rule out a whole continent I know nothing about?” I figured that a year at SYA China would help confirm that decision. Of course, a year at SYA China convinced me of the contrary and I ended up minoring in Chinese language and doing a concentration in Asia in undergraduate school!
How did your two SYA experiences compare?
They were totally different. In Spain, I was a junior so there was a real focus on academics. My main objective there, outside of school, was to meet and hang out with Spanish kids my age, and my Spanish was already good enough upon arrival so that it was a realistic undertaking. I joined Amnesty International at the local university and I also took advantage of my time in Spain to do some independent travel, which gave me a real sense of independence and of being “grown up.”
I arrived in China without ever having studied Chinese before. It was much more of a step into the unknown than Spain had been. I was a post-graduate and had already secured a place in college so my focus was more on my host family, exploring Beijing, our organized class trips (which were absolutely incredible), and the community of my SYA classmates. I was happy just spending time with my host family and extended host family members and taking in the excitement and exoticism that is Beijing.