Tally-ho, Adventure Awaits!

A new program called Stuy @ CIEE aspires to make studying abroad more accessible to students.

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This summer, 47 Stuyvesant students flew around the world studying abroad with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), and they were given almost a whole month to immerse themselves in a foreign culture. In countries like Morocco, Japan, and France, just to name a few, there are language immersion programs that offer college credits. In countries like Costa Rica, Ghana, and Portugal, there are programs about leadership and various global issues that offer community service hours. Within these diverse locations, CIEE High School Summer Abroad provides students light classes, insightful excursions, and the freedom to explore a brand new city with brand new friends.

Alumna Katherine Lake (‘22) recognized the incredible potential that this opportunity could have for Stuyvesant students. “You can actually really witness the change in people on these programs and be a part of it as well,” she described. “Helping students overcome barriers of education and enrichment is something that Stuyvesant is known for as a school. [...] [This is CIEE’s] mission but extends way beyond the classroom.”

Lake attended CIEE’s Spanish Language and Culture program in Barcelona in 2021. Though she was already fluent in Spanish, she wanted to see if she could actually apply the language outside the classroom. “You know more than you think you do, you just have to be forced to apply what you know to figure that out,” she observed. “Even if you come into that program—like many of my friends did with very little Spanish background—the amount that you can progress and the amount that you can still converse and make your way through a city like Barcelona is incredible.”

After her enlightening experience, she wanted to make information about CIEE accessible to more students. “If people who got on this trip were people who had heard about CIEE, people who had managed to apply somehow, imagine all the students who hadn’t even heard of this program and hence deem it inaccessible,” she reasoned. Lake also described the long-lasting educational impact of studying abroad. “You come back and you can actually connect to the material that you’re learning, so if anything, this is going to accelerate students’ ability to absorb all sorts of content,” she pointed out.

In the past school year, Lake worked alongside another student and faculty member to help people within Stuyvesant apply, which is why there was a record-high number of CIEE travelers this year. Still, she realized that there was so much more she could’ve done to promote it. That’s why Lake is currently building a new and original program called Stuy @ CIEE.

“Studying abroad, inherently, is expensive; [...] the mere thought of it often is enough for people to say ‘I just cannot.’ And that is something that I really wanted to dispel,” Lake explained as one of her main intentions for creating Stuy @ CIEE. As she put it, “[Let’s] create a culture [at Stuyvesant] of [not just getting] good test grades and cool internships—let’s actually send them to Japan, to China, to Ghana, to Costa Rica, because we can and they can go free. That’s what I want.” Her goal is to establish a firm foundation for the program within Stuy, but her larger goal is to make an impact in other schools as well. “[We could] bring this program and help set this program up in their schools,” she explained. Partnerships with other specialized high schools and schools with CIEE alumni alone can already create a useful network.

She also aspires to make it accessible to disadvantaged schools that don’t have as many resources as Stuyvesant through activities such as bringing application help sessions to them. “Imagine the opportunity that even if one or two kids from these disadvantaged areas get the chance to travel; that’s a win,” she noted.

However, with such bold goals, there are obstacles to think about. Lake hopes to convince faculty that the program is relevant and worth their time, so that they will endorse it for future CIEE students. “There are so many different portions of support we’ll need to be drawing from; [...] it might not be as effective as it could be,” she said. “It will be crucial to have faculty support on this for something like a push-in.” Furthermore, she recognizes that the financial aspects will involve working with and requesting the approval of the Student Union.

But Lake also has reason to be optimistic about the program’s future. “We’re not competing with any [other clubs], we’re not trying to find our niche. We’re literally, by definition, are in our own niche already, so it’s like the perfect scenario. [...] [We’re in a] very good place to begin,” she explained.

Lake’s aspirations for the program’s impacts are ambitious, but they are definitely not just far-fetched fantasies. She has already assembled an executive team of seven members behind her to help carry out their plans. This year, they hope to start by increasing communication about CIEE and encouraging more students to open an application through classroom push-ins, Q&A sessions, information panels, announcements, and newsletters, through which Stuy’s CIEE alumni will share their personal adventures. As the year continues, there will be open application help sessions, fundraising, and other events to help raise money for students going on the trips.

In addition to the aforementioned support, Stuy @ CIEE will also have an ambassador working directly with CIEE to look for opportunities for students who have already gone on their summer abroad trip, and for those who would like to continue with the momentum studying abroad.

“Imagine being able to send students across the world for three weeks to a month, on full rides, have them come back, share their stories—and that I think would be an incredible achievement for Stuyvesant to be able to do,” Lake said. By making the program more accessible, Stuy @ CIEE may give more students the chance to learn thousands of miles away from home for a summer and enjoy the powerful experience.