By Alexis Condon
Seven regional high seniors have already fled the all-too-familiar nest of the high school after accumulating enough credits to graduate early. For some, the decision came from the desire to escape the classroom, but others wanted a change of pace and scenery.
Early grad Caroline Roddy is living with a host family in Madrid, Spain, and attends a local high school there. “The idea was brought to me by a parent who said that graduating early was the best thing her child did. I was always inspired by early graduates in the past years, like one student who traveled to India to work with orphans,” she said. “When my family and I went to Amsterdam for Christmas last year, I fell in love with the idea of traveling. Although I didn’t end selecting Amsterdam, it will forever be in my heart and I hope to go back some day.” ;
Savannah Aiello is living in Paris in the 13th arrondissement, the city’s Chinatown. She said, “I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world ever since I was a little kid. I actually used to want to be an archeologist and camp out under the stars all the time. I have to say Caroline Roddy inspired me to do this. She’s such a shy girl, but she has so much spark in her to get out there and push herself to try everything at least once.”
Before Savannah committed to her trip, she had to step back and consider what she would be missing. “I realized I was going to be missing things that usually happen as a senior second semester, things like Evening of the Arts and Honors Night. I had to contemplate the idea of leaving my friends behind, and living in another country all on my own and by myself, which really scared me because I’m a super social person and love to be with people. The language barrier worried me, and still does. But I realized I’ll always have my friends wherever I go, and we can always keep in touch. It’s like a preparation for what’s to come with college,” she said.
Lena Hanschka and Mary McCarthy are spending their second semester traveling as well. They started in Portland, Oregon. Lena said, “I didn’t want to take a full gap year between high school and college, but I did want to take some time to travel and explore other options. I decided to graduate early the second week of school and added a few classes. I’m looking forward to seeing different areas and cultures of the world. I’m also looking forward to meeting new people and I hope to discover more about what I want to study in college and find out what it’s like to be independent and live on my own.”
After a month in Portland, Lena and Mary plan on traveling to Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, and other parts of Europe. In May, they hope to go somewhere warmer, such as Costa Rica or Indonesia.
Because she plans to be back in time for graduation, Lena does not think she will be missing much. “I’m not a huge fan of many high school events, so I don’t think I’m missing anything there, although I will miss my friends who aren’t graduating early. In high school I didn’t like the petty drama that went on and how judgmental people could be. I’m happy to escape that for a while and spend time with people who have more common interests,” she said.
Savannah also sought refuge from the drama in the high school. She said, “Socially I was having a rough time with drama at school. There was so much unneeded social judgement from peer to peer. It kind of just got to the point where it disgusted me, the amount of clique-y-ness. And even though I love being with people, I found myself isolated to my little friend group because I didn’t feel it was worth it to branch out.”
Caroline is now adjusting to life in Spain. She said, “I’m hoping to discover something in myself that I wasn’t able to discover at the high school. I already discovered that I love art and I am in a remarkably tranquil state here. I’m looking forward to actually being able to have comfortable and easy to understand conversations with my host family. Right now it is hard because I can understand them, but I have trouble speaking correctly.”
The high school Caroline is at right now is different from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. “The kids are louder and not as competitive. There are no honors or Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which is totally fine with me. I’m learning so much and I’ve grown to love my inability to speak Spanish. In my doing this I hope to become a more confident independent person who is partially fluent in a language. I think those are great qualities to have right before college. Studies show that students who study abroad or do any sort of gap year experience before they go to college are more prepared because they know what they want to do and are more mature,” she said.
“I think the positives outweigh the negatives by far. I’m coming back for graduation and I will walk with my class in June. I wanted to get away from all the college stress and competitiveness that I felt from kids,” Caroline said. “It’s hard to watch your friends go through this process because they start to doubt themselves and they don’t understand how far they have come. I would totally recommended graduating early and traveling or doing something just to be yourself and to be free of stress.”
Savannah, entering her third week in France, is still adjusting. “The host family situation is definitely something you have to adjust to. Living with a different family is hard enough because they have different values and rules than you may have been accustomed to at home, and once you throw in the language barrier, things can get frustrating,” she said. “I love endlessly discovering new places with every corner I turn, whether it be a bakery or a cafe, a monument or a museum. There are hundreds and hundreds of things to do and see.”