The Pigeon Press (Portland, Oregon)
While Northwest Academy does not offer a study abroad program, some students are still taking advantage of out-of-country opportunities.
Aden Qamar, a junior Northwest Academy, recently returned from a four-month, study abroad trip to Berlin.
“For a long time, [I] wanted to do a study abroad and Germany was a place I had been thinking about for a while.” Qamar said, “My mom, who is an artist, was given residency in Berlin…that was how it all started.”
The trip, which lasted most of the first semester, held many different experiences for Qamar.
“I actually did very few touristy things,” Qamar said. “The average day was much like an average day in America, just the German version.”
This included attending school during the week, practicing music at home and often utilizing Berlin’s expansive public transportation system during the weekends to explore the city.
Qamar attended a German Waldorf school with an emphasis on work-based education rather than testing.
“It was definitely a little tough in the beginning,” Qamar said, “but I was able to work with teachers and by the end, I was able to profit a lot.”
Though he learned a lot at the school, Qamar’s focus during the trip was learning German.
“My primary focus was definitely learning the language,” Qamar said. “I started to have German dreams and then I started to think a little bit in German.”
Though his parents were also living in the Berlin, Qamar stayed across the city with a host family.
“There are two types of German families: the really hip, modern Berliner German families and there’s the very minimalist, maybe even Spartan-like German family…that was what my family was,” Qamar said. “It was good to learn about a different way of life.”
Qamar also valued the experience of being exposed to a more diverse society.
‘Berlin is a super-international city,” Qamar said.“It was something I could never experience in Portland…that level of diversity.”
For Qamar, returning to the United States was a significant shock as he was forced to quickly adapt to his regular routine once again.
Qamar is not the only student at Northwest Academy who sees the value of studying abroad. Emma Hirsch, a sophomore, will be spending the first semester of her junior year in in Africa.
“Last year I was sort of seeking a new experience… I was thinking I wanted to do something different,” Hirsch said. “So I started looking at all sorts of programs.”
She found a place called The Traveling School, which offers a study-abroad curriculum which takes 15 teenage girls to Africa every year.
“One day might be spent learning at a national park, and another day might be at a museum,” Hirsch said. “I’m getting full high school credit, as well as a lot of service projects.”
Hirsch will be spending half the trip in South Africa and the other half will be spent traveling between Botswana, Zambia and Namibia.
“It’s [an incredible experience],” Hirsch said. “A lot of it will be educational, but a lot of it will be fun.”
She sees her trip as something that is important for her to do in high school.
“I was first really nervous because usually it’s alternate in college [and] it’s really alternate in high school,” Hirsch said. “I feel like, as a high schooler at my age, I will learn even more, while traveling, about myself.”
Qamar also sees his decision to study abroad in high school as significant.
“First semester, junior year, one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made,” Qamar said. “There were definitely some ups and downs…[but] I totally brought in my worldview, I expanded my mind and I have no regrets in that regard.”
Photo Credit: The Pigeon Press