Saturday, May 26, 2012

SYA-VN '12 - Partners in Crime

          Nearly equal in importance to the life-long bonds formed with my host family here in Hanoi, were those formed with my fellow SYA-VN students. To be a high school student living away from my family, 8000 miles from home, in the most extreme of foreign cultures, would simply have not been possible for me were it not for the love and support of my fellow students. There were just fifteen of us the first semester living in a foreign capital city with well over 6,000,000 inhabitants - and during the second semester, our numbers dropped even lower, with just seven of us remaining - Island America (+france) - at the start of the second term. Even though it is now time to part and go our separate ways across the globe, I'm sure the intensity (some say trauma...) of this amazing experience will make us lifelong friends who circle back to see each other from time to time. We've become brothers and sisters in arms and I'm sure that years from now it will take just one look or comment between any two of us to bring it all back.

          It is now my great pleasure to introduce the final class of School Year Abroad, Vietnam:  (we're not a dying breed, sadly we are now extinct)

Full-Year Students:

Luke Williams

            Although Luke may currently reside in Massachusetts, he grew up on the sunny coast of Southern California (a fact that he makes sure to remind us of constantly). He was one of three seniors in the SYA class, though he was the sole senior during the second semester. He is the sportsman of the group, and is an experienced football player. But seeing how American football isn’t really embraced anywhere outside of the US, he was more then willing to pick up Soccer, Frisbee, Rugby, anything that required running really. During the year I was able to watch the entire process of the college apps process. After being accepted to several schools of his choice, he has decided on Howard University in Washington D.C.

Anna Oakes

            A New Yorker through and through, Anna lives on Manhattan Island, and attends the famous Brearly School. She was originally only signed on for one semester, but had a change of heart midway through the first semester and joined our valiant group of full-year students. She is known (and infamous) in class for her expertise in fact checking and compulsive use of Wikipedia. She and I are also the only ones who live in the Thanh Xuan district, and often carpool to and from school and other events such as Saturday Frisbee. Although she is a New Yorker, she is half Swiss, and is fluent in German.

Elliott Crofton

            Raised in the land of heat and oil, Elliott spent the first 15 years of his life in a Saudi Aramco compound. He is American, and spends his summers in Arizona where his family is from. He currently attends the prestigious Phillips Andover Academy in Northern Massachusetts, just a few minutes away from where my dad grew up.  Known for being very eccentric and enthusiastic, he can often be seen hanging out with Anna and/or Perrine.

Perrine Aronson

            Hailing from the south of France, Perrine is the only SYAer from out of the US, though she has US citizenship. Her father is American and mother French. She is here as a post grad, and is taking a gap year before heading off to Saint Louis University next fall. She has the most abroad experience of our group, living for various amounts of time in a number of countries. Though she doesn't take many classes, she is still a lot of fun to have around, and she often entertains us with her “outrageous accent” (Monty Python reference).

Sarah Wiener

            A Virginia native, Sarah was raised in Charlottesville. She is no novice in travel, and has traveled to many cool places. Armed with her camera, she is a force to be reckoned with, and is one of the most talented photographers I know. When faced with a new or unknown situation in ‘Nam, Sarah will usually be the one to lead the charge. She is very dedicated to her internship at the Hanoi Peace Village, a center that provides care to children suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, and spends a few afternoons a week there playing with the children, and has really made a difference in their lives.

Abby Ripoli

           SYA VN’s only Mid-westerner, Abby calls Chicago home. She attends Lake Forest Academy in Illinois. Her love of Glee paved the way for the implementation of a weekly Glee night at our teachers’ Chuck and Becky’s apartment. She is also known for her fear of sharks, and made sure to educate us about shark safety while in Hoi An. Abby was a great friend to me during the course of year, and I really enjoyed spending time with her. One of her most memorable experiences was the great haircut fiasco of 2012, I won’t go into details but those who lived through it know what I'm talking about…. On a serious note, she was very supportive around the time I had to return home for my uncle’s funeral, and I am grateful to her for that.

Semester students:

Anna Leah Eisner

            Born and raised in Malibu, CA, Anna Leah is the second closest SYAer to me (if we’re counting Nan), living only an hour down the coast. She very much enjoyed her time in Vietnam and living with her host family, who she became very close to. Along with Nan and I, we formed the SB-Ojai-Malibu SoCal SYA triangle. Anna Leah was an awesome friend, and we both share a love of the Doors, and would discuss their music frequently. I’m very happy that we only a short drive away from each other, and look forward to many a SYA California reunion.

Maddy Blais

           Although  technically not a New Yorker, Maddy, resident of Westchester, is still given the title. She packs a lot of sass, but is otherwise harmless. Though best known as being the camera operator during most of the blooper scenes that were filmed over the course of the semester, she still got an A for effort. During her time in VN she would often be seen with Nan and Julia, who would roam the campus seeking out and devouring any and all fruit in their path.

Nan McMillian

            Nan has basically reversed Luke’s cross-country move. A native of Boston, she lives and attends school at Thatcher School in Ojai, CA. She wins the title of closest SYAer to me, only a brief drive into the mountains. Though she may now be a bitter rival to my sister’s new school Cate, she’s still pretty cool. Known around the class for her love of fruit and peanut butter, that would sometimes get her into trouble.

Nathan Cluss

           A senior from Winchester, Virginia, Nate was a super chill guy. He became very close to his host brother, and they would often skate together at Lenin Park, a local skate park. When not with his brother, he would often hang out with Perrine, Elliott and Anna. He was also a very talented photographer, and kept his own blog during his time here. Nate was my go-to cameraman for my movies. Pretty much every scene with me in was filmed by him - except for the bloopers, which usually somehow involved Maddy :)

Hy-Long (Woo) Nguyen

            Woo is a native of the SF Bay Area, growing up in Cupertino. His family is Vietnamese, and he still has many relatives in both the north and south of VN. He was the third senior in the group, and was the only one who knew any Vietnamese before hand, though he was most familiar with the southern accent. He is a very talented dancer, and preformed for us on several different occasions during the semester.

Julia Shumlin

            A Vermonter, Julia now attends ‘miss Porter’s school for girls’ in Connecticut. She was a great addition to our SYA team, and was the only one to have visited Hanoi before. An interesting fact about Julia is that her uncle is actually the governor of Vermont. I didn't believe her at first and though she was just making fun of how small it is, but I looked it up and it is indeed true.

Jaya Sahihi

            Along with Anna, Jaya is also a native of NYC, coming from the borough of Brooklyn. An interesting connection with her is that she attends the same school as our teacher’s (Chuck) nephew. She was the primary enforcer of environmental control, and was known to protest the use of paper packets in APES, and plastic bags at lunch.

Mackenzie Nagle

            Mackenzie has lived in Charlottesville, Virginia; NYC; and now attends school at St. Georges in Rhode Island. He was quite an adventurer, and an absolute whirlwind of energy. By the time he left VN, I'm fairly sure that he knew over half the city’s residents. He plans on returning to Hanoi in just a few weeks, to spend the summer with his host family and return to his internship at Nestle. 

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