Firebirds want to see the world, but they shy away from studying abroad


Photo: Lily Condron

Junior Duong Lien (left) came from France to study for a year at Kettering Fairmont High School. “I hoped to learn new culture, language and experience from my studies abroad,” Lien said. Lien says she’s loving her time in Ohio and highly recommends studying abroad to students interested in learning about other cultures.

Students at Fairmont High School have a wide variety of interests and, of course, many long to see the world. But for a variety of reasons, few Firebirds choose to study abroad while in high school, although many foreign students come to Fairmont each year.

“Almost no students from Fairmont study abroad during high school. Most wait until college, where it is less expensive and easier to transfer credits,” said Amy Dunaway-Haney, adviser of AFS (American Field Service), the club that unites international visitors and Fairmont students.

Haney believes many factors dissuade students from studying abroad. “The logistics are what brings the challenges,” said Haney. “Students are interested in immersing in the culture and studying abroad. However, finding a host family, the money and the means to travel pose an issue for many students.”

Though no Fairmont students have studied abroad in the recent years, many students have come to Fairmont to learn and to experience a new country. Duong Lien, who came to Fairmont from France, raves about her experience traveling abroad and says she has learned so much.

“I have much more self-confidence now,” she said. “I was really shy back home. I’m far friendlier now.” Lien believes there is so much to gain from studying abroad. “It’s a really good experience. You can learn so much about other cultures and also yourself.”

Fairmont students certainly have an interest in traveling abroad, and many are planning to travel to foreign countries over the summer with their foreign language classes. However, their interests seem to wane when it comes to studying in a foreign country for a semester or a year. Some teachers think that’s a shame.

“Other countries have different ways of thinking and teach different styles of learning that can help you become a better student and more well-rounded,” said ESOL (English Speakers of Other Lauguages) teacher Susan Werner. “Most Americans have misconceptions that other countries don’t live as well as us, and this is simply not true. We are not the most advanced in everything, and we are not first in everything. ”

Ask any foreign language teacher at Fairmont who has traveled or studied abroad, and they’ll tell you they loved their experiences.

Spanish teacher Audra Samanas, head of the Foreign Language Department, studied in France as a high school sophomore. “Living in a foreign country is an experience I will never forget,” Samanas said. “The best part was that I gained a perspective that I would have never understood had I not been there.”

Samanas said she loved her experiences. Her experience traveling abroad as a sophomore changed her life. “Going as a teen when you are still deciding on the kind of person you want to be is crucial,” she said.

According to most who have studied abroad, the new perspective on life and enriching experiences they gained changed their lives for the better. In regards to studies abroad, Samanas said, “Just go! You will never regret it and it will be the experience of a lifetime.”