Stories from our international boarding schools

One American’s perspective of an international environment

In the spirit of International Education Week, we are posting articles that highlight how high school students can feel empowered by engaging in an international education. This text was written by EF Academy New York Student Ambassador, Samie Freedman.

Every American high school student knows what it’s like to go to school and not understand.  Whether it be calculus, biochemistry, French grammar, or poetry, we all have subjects that fly over our heads and torment us, clouding our minds with a thick fog of bewilderment.  I am a high school senior, and confusion has become a close companion of mine.  But my case may be a little different.

Walking through the halls of my school, chaos overwhelms those whose ears are not prepared.  Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Norwegian whiz past me on my path to the cafeteria, spinning around my head and bouncing off the walls in a whirlwind of jumbled sounds.  Chinese and Thai trail closely behind, and these are only some of the languages that surround me on a day-to-day basis.  I am one of the few Americans to attend my international school, and studying in such a diverse environment has allowed me to become accustomed to not understanding.

The array of foreign languages I encounter certainly contributes to this aura of confusion, but the greater part of it comes from the vast amount of cultures present at my school.  I can now say I have friends from around twenty different countries, and speaking with them has opened a window into a world of new perspectives that never existed in my small, horse-ridden hometown.  Our conversations range from whether is it polite to say “bless you” after sneezing, to how political or royal authorities are perceived in our countries, and this has shown me that in the presence of cultural differences, my idea of what is “right” is never absolute.  Additionally, studying in the United States with international students has allowed me to look at my home country from a different perspective.  I now understand how aspects of my culture that I have grown up viewing as completely normal can be sources of confusion or annoyance for foreigners, and I am left questioning my own beliefs and traditions.  While this constant dissection of my own culture brings about internal confusion, this uncertainty has only propelled me forwards.

Perplexity has become one of my greatest motivations, prompting me to learn as much as I can about the world around me.  The amazing thing about studying at an international school is that because I have knowledge about dozens of different countries at my fingertips, my curiosity stretches way beyond the classroom.  Even sitting down at the lunch table with my friends is an opportunity to learn something new.  I now am familiar with the political controversies erupting in countries I had never heard of before coming to this school, I have gained a deeper understanding of religions I had never been exposed to, and I am filled with the desire to learn more.  My experience has taught me that I can gain so much from simply interacting with people who are different from me, and I have come to appreciate the value of knowledge that comes in forms other than class notes and textbooks.

While studying at an international school has allowed me to learn from my peers, it has also given me the opportunity to become a teacher of sorts.  I have a unique role in my school, because as one of the few people from the United States in my class, it is my job to act as an ambassador of the culture that surrounds our secluded campus.  American history, politics, and cultural traditions are all topics I have discussed with my friends, and I have tried to help them make sense of the complexities of the country we are living in.  Another important goal of mine has been to break down certain negative images that foreign students have about the United States.  I know that a common American stereotype centers around my country’s ignorance and ethnocentrism, and in order to represent the United States in a more positive light, I have tried to be as open minded as possible to contrasting beliefs and opinions.

My experience studying at an international high school has been extremely rewarding, as not only has it helped me become a more open-minded and curious student, but it has given me tools to succeed in the future.  My teachers are always telling me about the steps I need to take to become academically prepared for college.  However, I think there is something more to be said about the importance of personal preparation—gaining social skills, learning how to thrive in uncomfortable environments, turning failure and confusion into something positive.  These abilities are crucial to one’s success in the world after high school, and I think that living and learning with students from around the world has accelerated my development in each of these areas.  I now know how to work with people who think differently than me, and most importantly, I have learned how to use our differences to enrich my social and school relationships.  I know how to accept other people’s opinions while still staying true to what I believe in, and I have learned to let my struggles fuel me, rather than hold me back.  I am proud of the person I have become over the course of my high school career, and I know that if it hadn’t been for my experience in this international environment, I wouldn’t be who I am today.



Surrounded by 100 acres of landscaped grounds, the EF Academy New York boarding school in the US offers students a huge variety of activities to take part in and plenty of space for them to pursue their passions. Experience a traditional american boarding school education in New York in an international setting that will inspire, transform and empower you.

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