Semester away programs expand minds and provide real-world experiences

Senior+Olivia+Black+relaxes+with+her+fellow+Oxbow+students+on+a+beach+near+San+Francisco+during+a+class+field+trip.+%E2%80%9CI+%5Blearned+that+everything+was+connected%5D+l+and+realized+that+my+work+in+environmental+science+could+be+linked+to+what+I+was+learning+in+history.+Overall%2C+the+art+%5Bat+Oxbow%5D+was+amazing%2C%E2%80%9D+senior+Olivia+Carry+said.

Photo submitted by: Olivia Black

Senior Olivia Black relaxes with her fellow Oxbow students on a beach near San Francisco during a class field trip. ““I [learned that everything was connected] l and realized that my work in environmental science could be linked to what I was learning in history. Overall, the art [at Oxbow] was amazing,” senior Olivia Carry said.

Lauren Boettcher, Staff Writer

For a few students, spending the day 10,000 feet above sea level is an opportunity that is unparalleled. Others view a day spent learning about the Brooklyn Bridge while sitting on the Brooklyn Bridge as a day well spent. For many students at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, opportunities like these have become obtainable through the Semester Away Program. A variety of programs across the nation have partnered with SPA to give students the chance to spend an entire semester outside of Minnesota and experience learning in a completely different environment.

High Mountain Institute

Located in Leadville, Colorado, The High Mountain Institute blends academics with the outdoors. “Everyone I knew who did it recommended it to me, and I have this tendency to draw away from people at SPA towards the end of the year so I thought this would be good,” junior Will Donaldson said. Donaldson will be attending HMI in the spring semester. There, he will also participate in three “expeditions”, in which he will spend  five out of his twelve weeks hiking and cross country skiing in the mountains. Although students spend a  substantial amount of their time exploring, academics will remain a priority; at HMI, students take Honors and AP level courses along with participating in the school’s other activities.

CITYterm

While this program focuses strictly on New York City, it is actually located on Dobbs Ferry, a village that is about 40 minutes away from New York City, depending on what train is available. CITYterm focuses on Urban Studies, and the history of New York City. “We talk about how the city works, how its successful or unsuccessful, structurally, economically, and socially,” said junior Isabelle Saul-Hughes. Students at CITYterm have a revolving block schedule, in which the main blocks, such as math and science, mix with what CITYterm calls Urban Core classes. These combine traditional courses, such as English and history, and revolve around the city of New York and its diverse inhabitants. At CITYterm, students also work on a variety of different projects, including the Brooklyn Bridge project, where students spend time reading stories and poetry written about the Bridge, visiting the bridge, and then designing a project based on their experiences. “It’s more of a creative essay. Some people did writing, video, photograph. I took this little closet and I made it all dark and I had recorded stuff on the bridge, so I played a recording and I turned a fan and had people stand in it and see if it felt like they were on the bridge,” Saul-Hughes said.

The Oxbow School

A metal dress with family photos attached welded by senior Olivia Black for her final project at Oxbow, based on ideas that had influenced her over time.
Photo submitted by Olivia Black
A metal dress with family photos attached welded by senior Olivia Black for her final project at Oxbow, based on ideas that had influenced her over time.

The Oxbow School is a semester away program located in Napa, California that provides students with the chance to study art more intensely than is possible with the SPA curriculum. Seniors Olivia Black and Daniela Tiedemann are both alumni of the Oxbow School, having decided to attend after viewing a presentation given to their sophomore class. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it or if it was something I would actually go through with because it is a semester away, you’re gone for half a year,” senior Daniela Tiedemann said. At Oxbow, classes are taught on a two week rotation, and each rotation contains an entire semester worth of a subject.

“I [learned that everything was connected] l and realized that my work in environmental science could be linked to what I was learning in history. Overall, the art [at Oxbow] was amazing,” senior Olivia Black said.  While the academics there are challenging, Oxbow encourages its students to focus on its their intensive arts program. “You’re encouraged to stay in the art studio until 10 p.m. every night,” Tiedemann said.

[CITYterm] changed the way I see the world, and the way I see myself in it.”

— senior Isabelle Saul-Hughes

The Semester Away programs provide students with the unique opportunity to do something they’re passionate about, with compromising their academic studies to a point where they can’t get back. “You are going across the country for half a semester, but it is enlightening and you learn so much about yourself and about the world,” Tiedemann said. These programs are designed to help students grow as people. Not just in the classroom, but in every aspect of life. “[CITYterm] changed the way I see the world, and the way I see myself in it,” Saul-Hughes said.