Being an Exchange Student at Athenian

As a member of Round Square, Athenian participates in a robust international exchange program. We send more than 35 sophomores abroad to sister Round Square schools every year and host just as many on our campus.
We recently hosted a student from the Bridge House School in South Africa. She wrote our Round Square Director, Mark Friedman, a lovely letter about her time at Athenian.

Hi Mark!

I wanted to apologize because when I left Athenian, I never got to formally thank you and Emily for the effort and thought that you all invested in order to make my exchange so memorable.

When I asked past Bridge House students that had attended Athenian on exchange about what to expect, they immediately smiled and told me that I was going to love it. I then met Justine earlier in the year [when she came here on exchange] and I knew that if your students were similar to her, I would find it difficult to leave, and I was right. I have completely fallen in love with your school, the food, the lifestyle and most importantly, the people. I have made memories and friends that I will never forget; and even though Athenian is not like the typical American public school that we see on TV in South Africa, it is perfect just the way that it is. I admire the determination and passion that your students have for their work, their constant big smiles and the happy atmosphere throughout the campus, and (I’m sure that you have heard this many times before) the absolutely breath-taking views. I find it difficult to convey how perfect my experience was to my friends and family because it went way beyond anything that I had anticipated. I notice myself constantly thinking about everyone that I miss.

Mathomo and I are excited to share our experience with the younger Bridge House students that will be attending Athenian in the years to come. I now know that they will never be able to forget these two months of exchange, because how could they forget two of the best months of their lives.

I hope that everyone is doing well.
All the best for 2017,
Ella Solms

Another student from Bridge House School recently applied to come to Athenian. In her application, she wrote the following:
“I have a great interest in The Athenian School in California in the USA, because most of the people that I look up to and my friends have been to the school and have nothing but great praise for it.  They almost all recommended me to go there.  What mainly attracts and interests me about The Athenian School is that they are said to embrace cultural diversity, encourage intellectual independence and tolerance of different global perspectives. …  Why do I think I am the most suitable candidate for the exchange program? I am a young and talented African woman with exceptional leadership qualities. I am thirsty to broaden my future horizon and learn more about other people’s different way of life. Given this opportunity I would be a great ambassador of not only my school and my community but also my country as well. I intend to share my values of Ubuntu with my host school and community.”
Athenian’s exchange program continues to grow. This year, we have students traveling to and coming from Argentina, Australia, China, Columbia, Germany, India, Peru, South Africa, South Korea, and the UK.

Understanding The Industrial Revolution Through Paper Airplanes

img_7276The Industrial Revolution was a turning point in Western Civilization that affected every aspect of daily living. The 9th Grade World Cultures classes are beginning a unit on industrialization and imperialism before launching into globalization. To give them a taste of what the revolution was all about, the classes simulated a factory environment.

Nancy, dressed in foreperson jeans and work shirt, barked out orders to the factory workers: they had to build as many paper airplanes as they can in 5 minutes that could fly a predetermined distance. After a brief planning period, the students attempted a variety of methods to build airplanes. Some students worked together in an assembly-line fashion while others worked independently.

img_7289Then came the quality control. They went out to test the airplanes and only a fraction of them were successfully assembled.

While paper airplanes were never built in factories during the Industrial Revolution (that we know of), this experience gave students a taste of a factory workers’ life: a competitive environment, unreasonable expectations, only seeing a piece of the whole, and experiencing efficiency as the highest value.


Alumni Wisdom: Life After Athenian

Today is Alumni Day at Athenian. Many of our young alums are still home on college winter break and are able to share with our students about their life after Athenian. Here is a collection of quotes from today’s Symposia on how Athenian prepares students for college.

“In terms of writing, Athenian does a great job…take your humanities classes seriously, take your history classes seriously, because the writing skills that you learn here will put you way ahead when you start college.”

“Athenian prepared me really well, or over-prepared me. I’ve been gliding through college.”

“Athenian prepares you to advocate for yourself and be comfortable with teachers, so it’s so much easier to get to know your teachers.”

“I felt well-prepared, especially in paper writing….You all are way more prepared than you think you are with writing exercises.”

“Athenian prepared me really well socially for college. I learned here how to be outgoing, and I think that’s really important when you’re trying to meet friends at college. If you’re outgoing, people will latch onto you really quickly. Academically, I talked to my roommate this year, and he said in high school, he was never really challenged. So he didn’t understand the idea of studying a really long time for a test, but that was just natural for me because here you’re challenged more than other places and that really helps.”

“The science department gives you a really solid base, a really solid foundation. The one thing that I wish I had practiced more when I was in high school was learning from a textbook.”

“Athenian also really taught me that is what is most important is what you actually learn and the person you are becoming. I think that we are prepared really well for a lot of the general education. We learn how to learn. We also learn how to work. If you can apply that same work ethic that you learn here, inevitably, as you get deeper into what you’re doing, there’s nothing that can prepare you for college, because hopefully, it’ll be a time when you’re pushing yourself, really trying to grow. So there’s no way to truly be prepared other than learning how to get through hard things. And Athenian is a hard thing, so that’s good.”

“I was actually a little worried coming out of Athenian that I didn’t do enough….and then I got into college classes, and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m amazed at how much Athenian has taught me.’ All the writing rubrics were identical. I was writing 5-7 papers a week and I thought they were a breeze. I was in some of my classes and some of the students didn’t know how to make graphs in Excel, and I thanked Bruce and Will silently for teaching me how to do that….If you’ve taken advantage of what Athenian has to offer, I’ve found that I’m really ahead in college and having an easy time because I was prepared so well.”

“You’re really prepared. I remember something I heard when I was sitting on that side of the conversation. And that is, college is 30% academics and 70% social. I’d like to echo that, because, at the end of the day, I have class for 12 hours a week. Compared to high school, it’s nothing. Honestly, you have to put in a lot of work [to the social scene].”

“I came to Athenian junior year. I learned how to be nice in general, so that even if everyone has their own groups, you can still be friends….this goes a long way. Many engineering students at my school have jobs in the best industries in the United States. The ones that I talk to, if I ask them for a job, I might get one, so that is a helpful thing. It helps me to be social and be patient and that’s something that I got from here.”

“I was someone who didn’t do the best at Athenian, but at the same time, I weirdly found myself really well prepared when I went to college….It can be a little rigorous. It’s easy to complain….I really miss Athenian in the sense that I feel like I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was here….Definitely appreciate what you have here. You have teachers who will grab you outside of class and smack you into reality. You’re not going to get that in college. You’re not going to have teachers who actually care for you. [Athenian teachers] care for you, they really do. All the things you have done for me, it really means a lot. That C that you would give me, it really helped me grow into the person that I am today. And you’re not going to get that in college as much if you go to a big school. Teachers won’t necessarily do that for you. They’ll give you the grade but they won’t tell you why unless you go to them….Go to your teachers, go to your professors later in life.”

“Socially, you’re going to have to put yourselves out there more than you did here. Sign up for things and put your phones away.”