What VHS 2010 Is Doing: Thinking International


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Amy Janett, second from right, with friends in Iceland during her junior year abroad

Class of 2010 graduate Amy Janett had originally assumed she’d attend college in the Northeast. She was interested in a liberal arts college, and there are plenty within a few hours drive of Verona. She’d seen them firsthand two years prior when she’d tagged along on her brother Mark’s college-hunting trips. (He ended up at Colgate University in upstate New York.)

But then she spent her junior year in Iceland through an international exchange program with AFS and her worldview widened. She lived with an Icelandic family, attended high school, played sax in the community band, became fluent in Icelandic and adopted to quirky customs like never blowing her nose in public and or walking indoors in street shoes. She spent time on a sheep farm, witnessed the collapse of Iceland’s monetary system, and met her Icelandic boyfriend, Elvar Bragi Bjarkason.

So when she was a second-semester senior trying to decide between Clark University in Worcester, Mass., which was wooing her with an academic scholarship, and Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., which was recommended by the head of her Icelandic program, Janett took the less-traveled road. “I view the distance as an advantage,” she says. “I can’t just move to  the Midwest whenever I want so I can go to college there and experience it.” (She’ll join another VHS grad there, Hana Masri, from the Class of 2009.)

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The 139 students of the Verona High School Class of 2010 are now heading out to a diverse group of 78 colleges, universities, community colleges and technical schools, across the U.S and in other countries. Some will be going into the military; some volunteering abroad; some will begin careers. We’ll be looking at some of these choices to help the class of 2011 and beyond.

The Macalester campus

Not surprisingly, the big attraction for Janett was Macalester’s international emphasis. Though only about 2,000 students attend the school, it has an international population of 12 percent and students from all 50 states. Even introductory courses in math and science have an international bent, and two-thirds of Macalester students study abroad. Because Janett intends to major in math or science, the strength of the college’s foreign study programs holds particular appeal. “At some schools math or science majors can have a hard time studying abroad; they may just be able to study in January or in a summer program,” she says. “At Macalester whatever major you decide to pursue there are at least five options for a semester-long program. And it’s not just Paris, London or Tokyo–you can study in Tunisia, Lebanon–anywhere you can imagine.”

Deciding on a major won’t be easy for Janett, who wants to combine her affinity for foreign languages with her love for math and science. But at Macalester, she says, it will be easier to merge these diverse interests. She’ll be taking Arabic in the fall because, she says, “Math originated in ancient Egypt so I thought it would be cool to study both.” She’s also attracted to Arabic because it’s exotic, and she enjoys the challenge of the new. “I already know three languages that use the Latin alphabet, so I thought, “Why not learn a language that’s completely different?”

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Julia Martin Langan
Julia Martin Langan
Julia Martin Langan moved to Verona in 1989. A long-time journalist, she has been on the staff of Money, Sports Illustrated, Bride’s and Redbook magazines. Her articles on health and parenting appear in a variety of national publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Self and Family Circle. She and her husband Greg have three school-aged children, and are members of Our Lady of the Lake Church. You can reach Julia at [email protected]


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