Theresas Aufenthalt an der Proctor Academy (2016/17)

Andover, New Hampshire, USA

When I stepped into the plane that took me to Boston, I didn’t know much about Proctor Academy. I just knew that it is a private boarding school for 9th to 12th graders in a very small town Andover, New Hampshire. It is a relatively small high school with 350 students in total, but has a loving community where students call their teachers with their first names. They have a huge campus in the middle of nowhere including trails and lakes in the woods, and the buildings and dorms are all built in the typical New England style.

The moment I got off the airplane I was quite nervous about communicating only in English from now on, but when I found the lady that took me from the airport north to Andover I didn’t really have time to think about it anymore, and I just started to talk in English. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, especially because everyone I met was so nice and welcoming. For the first night I stayed at the international students coordinator’s house with some other early international students. It was a lot of fun to get to know other new students, for example from Vietnam and Spain, and eat together for dinner.

The next day we all got dropped off at the main building of Proctor’s campus, and we had a registration session for all new international students. Finally, we spent some days together at a lake close to the school, which was a special program for new international students. After that, wilderness orientation started, which means that all new students (including the ones from America) go hiking in groups for three days. At that time I also got to know my roommate Mila from Connecticut, we had a lot of fun together decorating our room in a dorm that we shared with 8 other nice girls. My roommate was very different from me, but this actually strengthened our friendship: Whenever she needed help in Math or sciences she could come to me, and whenever I had questions about American history and language she would answer me with passion. In the fall term I played field hockey, which gave me the opportunity to make friends with a lot of Americans, one of them also offered me to stay at her house during Thanksgiving, where I got to know a typical American celebration.

Having a very structured day, starting with school at 8:30 am, sports at 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm, and homework and extra help in the evening, life at a boarding school doesn’t give a lot of free-time. But living on the same campus together with all your friends, dorm parents, and many teachers makes you get to know everyone very close. Being able to reach your best friends within a few minutes, many even within 10 seconds was a great experience. I never felt alone, because there was always someone else in the room next to me, and I made friends with many of the other students in my dorm.

Proctor Academy was the right choice for me! I loved the small community where everyone knew each-other in person, felt included, and supported by the teachers, that seemed more like friends. I was able to take all the advanced classes I wanted to take (American Literature, US History, AP Calculus, Organic Chemistry, Physics Honors, and AP French), I got the chance to be part of the Field Hockey Varsity team, and Alpine Skiing team in the winter, and I learned a lot about being aware of our environment. In the spring term I even got the opportunity to be part of an off-campus program called “Mountain Classroom” which is a group of ten students and two instructors from Proctor traveling from California back to New Hampshire within ten weeks while studying the American food system, visiting farms and research institutes, going on various expeditions such as hiking and canoeing, and learning about life in a community.

But the most important impressions I take away from my year at Proctor Academy are the many and incredible close friendships I made, the people that I plan on staying in contact with. Saying goodbye at the end of the spring term wasn’t easy, but I know that I will visit some of my best friends later on in my life. Looking back, I am so glad that I made the decision to leave home, and step out of my comfort zone. Now I am a lot more open-minded, independent, adaptable, and got to know a different language and culture with all its small pieces that you would never learn at school here in Germany, but can only experience by living the same way as an American, and among Americans.

One last advice that I would like to give to everyone who has his/her year abroad still ahead is to appreciate and make the best out of the time in America. As long as one school year might seem in the beginning, it can fly by and feel like a few weeks. You want to choose classes that teach you something and that are maybe a little bit challenging, but in which you are also interested in. Be part of sport teams that you are excited about, use opportunities such as extra help from your teachers, and participate in other afternoon activities. Don’t attend an American high school in order to meet other German people, but to get to know American students.

My time at Proctor Academy was the best experience and adventure I have ever had because I got in contact with American students, because I went to my teachers to get extra help, and because I was always up for trying new things. I know that I will benefit from and never forget the many impressions I have made, the different world perspective I got to know, and the many friendships I formed throughout the year.