Junior plans to study abroad senior year

Emma Kempf to attend school in China


Yonit Krebs

Junior Emma Kempf rejects a typical high school experience and will head to China for her senior year of high school. Kempf said she will be learning Mandarin Chinese and Chinese history along with more traditional classes on a School Year Abroad program in Beijing, China.

“I’m really really looking forward to learning Chinese because I know zero Mandarin,” Kempf said. “I’m really excited to just be somewhere else and be able to explore a completely different country.”

According to Kempf, she will be learning about Chinese culture inside and beyond the classroom.

“What’s really cool about this program is they have five weeks of travel built into the school year so you go to Shaanxi Province, and you go to Yunnan, right by Laos and Cambodia, which is on the opposite side of the country,” Kempf said. “You travel all around. It’s not just sitting in Beijing the whole time. You get a very well-rounded experience while you’re there.”

According to School Year Abroad (SYA) assistant director of admissions Anna Hughes, SYA offers four study abroad programs in Spain, France, Italy and China.

“I think the main difference is in Spain and in France there is a two-year language requirement, and the reason for that is that all of your classes with the exception of math and English are in the target language,” Hughes said. “At SYA China and Italy there is no language requirement. We have students who do SYA China and Italy who come as complete beginners in the language, and the classes start off in English, and they get progressively more immersive as the year goes on.”

Hughes said SYA gives students the opportunity to develop skills like problem-solving and self-reliance outside their comfort zone.

“Obviously, the language component is huge, especially in SYA Spain and France where students are leaving the year with fluency and definitely an ability to speak confidently and also with ease,” Hughes said. “I think that’s something that more and more you see schools cutting language programs, and in reality, it should be something that we are valuing, and we do that at SYA.”

Kempf said she expects to experience some culture shock when she transitions from life in the United States to life in China.

“I don’t really think there is a way to prepare for culture shock because you’re not living in that culture, so until you get there, it’s not going to shock you,” Kempf said. “Culture shock is, from what I hear, terrifying, but it’s also interesting especially because I don’t know any of the language or any of the customs, so I think it’ll be really scary, but I kind of look forward to that — that’s kind of why I’m going.”

According to Hughes, Kempf will need to adjust to the differences in Chinese and American cultures.

“I think we have become, as a society, familiar and comfortable traveling to Western countries where, for the most part, everybody speaks English, and you don’t have to adapt, and I think in China that’s not the case,” Hughes said. “Adaptability is crucial, and I think certainly something our students are learning how to do in China. Even simple things like how to form a line to get on a bus is different in China.”

Hughes said most students experience an initial culture shock, but SYA has resources to help ease the transition. According to Hughes, SYA’s faculty’s experience helps support and guide students.

“If it’s a severe case, we have a relationship with the Truman Group which allows for online therapy sessions which I think our students should take advantage of because it is challenging to adjust to a new place away from your family, but our students come out stronger because of the initial challenges, and they’re able to hit the ground running and find their stride and really be able to find their place in whatever country they study in,” Hughes said.

According to Kempf, since she will be attending an American school in Beijing, all the credits are transferable, and she will return to Park in time for graduation.