A Year to Remember


Photo courtesy of Joy Zhu

Joy Zhu, junior, poses with her German friend Maya Frodi, before sandboarding. Zhu traveled to San Pedro Atacama Desert while on her exchange program in Chile. “All the trips were so exciting with my exchange friends and forever bonds were formed there,” Zhu said.

Lauren Gaylor , Staff Writer

Getting out of your comfort zone can be hard. Traveling to a different country, trying new foods, or driving a car can be nerve-racking for people, especially teenagers. However, these two State High students stepped out of their comfort zone and spent a year abroad in a different country. They were immersed in a school, new cultures and a new realm of reality.

Junior Joy Zhu spent her sophomore year abroad in Chile. “The idea of feeling trapped inside a small town and living my life in a monotone way is something that I have always disliked, so the chance of leaving my comfort zone to immerse myself in another culture for a year greatly appealed to me,” Zhu said. Her favorite from the trip was sandboarding down the San Pedro Atacama Desert. “It was tough walking back up with my board but it was absolutely thrilling and so fun,” she said.

With every trip, there comes an end, and the experience went by quickly for her. “I often found myself aghast at how much time had gone by, but there were also times where a week felt like forever…as I formed close relationships rapidly with other exchange students and a couple of months spent with them felt like years of friendship,” Zhu said. She would recommend traveling abroad to “those who have an open mind and aren’t afraid of toughing it out as this experience takes a colossal amount of resilience and effort.”

State High graduate Greg Costanzo spent his senior year abroad in China. He knew traveling abroad would be good for college applications as well as being a maturing experience and important for growing as an individual. He also wanted to see more of the world and spend time away from his family. One of his favorite memories was a trip he went on in the mid-winter. “Winter in China is sad and depressing, people and the culture aren’t warm,” Costanzo said. However, his friends from home came to visit him and traveled around the country of China and saw everything he could. He fell in love with Hong Kong due to the warm weather and better air quality. “I regret being negative about a lot of my trip. It was a difficult environment; half the students in my class dropped and went home. Towards the end it became easy, and I was happy to come home,” he said.

He would recommend traveling abroad to other students. “Traveling is good for the soul. You expect this fairytale experience and that’s a bunch of nonsense; human beings don’t change regardless of where you go. It’s an important lesson to learn, it really puts things in perspective. I gained a strong appreciation for the U.S,” Costanzo said.

For both students, returning home wasn’t easy. They were sad to leave the friends they made and the experiences they had, but they were more than ready to come home. Zhu still keeps in touch with friends she made in Chile and Constanzo has visited several times and still has a deep appreciation for China.