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School Year Abroad (SYA)


School Year Abroad (SYA) is a nonprofit organization focused on providing immersive study abroad programs. With over 8,000 alumni since 1964, SYA is a school fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Founded upon a yearlong study abroad model, SYA operates three campuses in France, Italy and Spain, and has expanded to provide a wide array of programs designed to develop skills for an increasingly interdependent world. SYA's yearlong program remains the only secondary-level option allowing students to live with a host family for an entire academic year while earning U.S. graduation credits and preparing for admission to selective U.S. colleges and universities. SYA now offers semester and summer programs in each of the three campuses. Visit for more information.



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Yes, I recommend this program

SYA Italy review

I had the most amazing experience at SYA Italy. My host family was a perfect match and I learned so much from them. They welcomed my like a member of their family and I have so many amazing memories with them. The friendships I made are ones I know I will have for life. The experiences I had with my classmates are ones that very few people could have at this age. The most amazing part of this journey was the way I was able to learn a language from nothing in such a short amount of time. My teachers were so helpful in making sure we were understanding and enjoying what we are doing. Going to SYA was the best decision I could have made.

  • The traveling I could do
  • The relationships I built
  • The high level of experiential learning
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Yes, I recommend this program

SYA Italy Experience

SYA Italy was an incredible program! l had a phenomenal experience with my host family and the program is very intentional about creating the host family parings and having students integrated into the local community. SYA Italy has amazing professors who were very helpful in not only our transition to living abroad, but also learning Italian and keeping our other academics strong. I loved living in Viterbo and would highly recommend studying abroad with SYA! It is a super fun year, you learn a lot, and you get a once in a lifetime experience to travel abroad and live in a new country!

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Yes, I recommend this program

School Year Abroad Spain

My name is Jacob Sherwindt, and I am a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University and an alum of SYA Spain, class of 2020. My year in Zaragoza has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I was able to gain fluency in Spanish, meet lifelong friends, and broaden my global perspective.

Every part of SYA was a dream come true for 17 year old me. My host family quickly became my second family, and the city of Zaragoza became a new home for me. SYA does a fantastic job of providing relevant and rewarding classes for their students, and I took full advantage of this opportunity. For the first time in my life, I woke up each morning excited to go to class. That feeling was irreplaceable, and I hope that many more students get to feel the same way during their study abroad experience.

  • Studying abroad enhanced my maturity and responsibility, which helped me prepare for college.
  • The SYA community is extensive, and the people I met are still my closest friends to this day.
  • The SYA experience provided a unique story to discuss on my college applications, and I know it was very beneficial for me as well as my friends (with regard to getting in to universities).
  • I did feel a little homesick at the beginning of the year, but that feeling quickly left when I got acclimated.
  • I was worried that it would be hard to come back to the US for my senior year, but the transition was very easy.
  • I was also worried that I would miss out on playing my sport (basketball), but the SYA activities coordinator found a team for me to play on in Zaragoza, and it was an incredible experience.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Life-changing experience

It's been over six years since I did this program, but I still remember it as one of the fondest times in my life. I met wonderful, adventurous people, and traveled through all of France. I made life-long friends with this experience. I learned french, enjoyed french food and lived with a wonderful host mother. The program has been running for almost 60 years, and they really know what they are doing! The curriculum covers all aspects of live in France: history, art history, culture, literature and pronunciation.
The city of Rennes is a cute, small city with great public transportation that makes it easy to explore and get around. During vacations I was able to visit other European countries with my friends and make cherished memories. I highly recommend!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Escargots and tons of other seafood I never had before.


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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

What position do you hold at SYA? What has been your career path so far?

My name is Ned Henningsen and I'm in my second year as an Assistant Director of Admissions at School Year Abroad after graduating from Stanford University in 2011 with a focus on History and Literature. I attended Phillips Academy and School Year Abroad Italy in high school. I’m dedicated to the field of education and would like to become a teacher at a school abroad.

Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I studied at SYA Italy as a junior in high school. I went because of my desire for adventure and the unknown, as well as a passion for the classics, Italian food, and the physical beauty that pervades the country. I knew there was more that I could get out of my high school experience, though I was at a great school. I knew I would mature a great deal by getting outside of the bubble and adapting to a very different world from what I was accustomed to. As expected I fell in love with Italy and went back there for two more years in college, to study at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world.

What does the future hold for SYA - any exciting new programs to share?

The 2014-2015 curriculum will include new courses in Political Science and Economics, as well as Physical Science: Environmental Science in China (AP), France and Spain and Archaeology in Italy. The curriculum will place a greater emphasis on global issues, while maintaining at its core the cultural and linguistic immersion experience. The skills and knowledge that students develop through immersion—an ability to adapt to different cultures and communicate across boundaries—lie at the foundation of any education for today's global world.

What about the future of the high school abroad industry? How do you think international education will change over the next 10 years?

As our world becomes more interdependent and interconnected, studying abroad in high school will become more and more important because it exposes students to the wider world earlier and gives them a significant leg up in college. International education in the next ten years will be much more collaborative between schools, using the internet as a vehicle for communication, while also placing greater emphasis on in person interactions which no computer screen can replace. SYA’s summer schools already have online collaboration between students at our different schools.

Some argue that it’s less important these days to learn another language because so many people speak English. I couldn’t disagree more. When you learn another language you open yourself up to a much fuller version of communication with others and it changes the way you think about your own language and language in general. It is an enormous gift and worth the hard work of the will to achieve fluency.