Students study abroad: Scarlett Goldberg (12) in Italy


Sammy Matays, Staff Writer

“The sweetness of doing nothing [“dolce far niente” in Italian] and the appreciation for what you have in the present moment has been a nice cultural adjustment,” Scarlett Goldberg (12) said. This academic school year, Goldberg is studying abroad in Viterbo, Italy, along with 40 to 50 other American students.

While in Italy, Goldberg is studying at School Year Abroad (SYA), a program that allows students to immerse themselves in an unknown culture while attending American academic classes. Students who are part of the program live with Italian host families, which exposes them to Italian culture and customs.

After taking a year off between 10th and 11th grade for mental health reasons, Goldberg attended the following school year as a member of the class of 2023 while her peers remained in the class of 2022, she said. “I wanted to move onto a new academic setting along with my peers of 2022, who moved on to gap years or university.” By studying abroad, Goldberg has experienced a change from Horace Mann and a fresh start. “People are more authentic than they would be in an environment that they have been in for many years, where they might have felt pressure to keep up a mirage of who they are,” she said.

Driven by academic validation and external pressure, the classroom-based learning environment at Horace Mann is very different from the study abroad program, Goldberg said. “The program focuses on cultural immersion, experiential learning, and trying to get kids intrinsically motivated to learn.” 

At the SYA campus, Goldberg attends classes with her American peers on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  Wednesdays are dedicated to out-of-the-classroom experiences, such as traveling to Rome to see famous attractions, such as the Pantheon and the Coliseum, or having guided tours at historical sites, Goldberg said. The course requirements are fairly standard for an American curriculum, as Goldberg currently takes Italian Language, Experiential Italian, Local Global Perspectives, Ancient History through Art, AP Calculus, and English. Goldberg’s favorite class is local global perspectives, because it introduces her to political and social dynamics in Italy, she said.

Even though SYA uses a scheduling system that is different from Horace Mann, Goldberg still has free periods and a break for lunch in the middle of the day, facets that mirror Horace Mann’s academic schedule. The SYA tuition  includes access to a local cafeteria, but Goldberg commonly eats at local cafes with her friends from the program, which she did not do as frequently at Horace Mann, she said.

“After school, there are extracurriculars all in the local community,” Goldberg said. During the first semester, she participated in Gemallagio, an after-school debate program involving Americans and Italians. This semester, Goldberg is tutoring local middle schoolers in English. On the weekends, Goldberg enjoys going out with her friends to San Pellegrino, a medieval neighborhood, where they sit in piazzas, which are public squares, she said. 

Living with a host family has strengthened Goldberg’s ability to interact with new people and has required her to adjust to a new environment. Goldberg has a host sister who’s the same age as her, and she has become friends with her host’s Italian friends. As the family comes from a different socioeconomic class than herself, there are certain aspects — such as the whole family sharing one shower — that she has had to get used to. This Tuesday, Goldberg and her host family celebrated their dog Winston’s birthday, Goldberg said. “My host mom made a little biscuit for him, put a candle in it, and blew it out, pretending he did it.”

The program has presented some challenges, Goldberg said. “Italy, especially Viterbo, has a very specific political climate that is very different from New York,” she said. For example, Goldberg has noticed some instances of antisemitism. “Swastikas are graffitied quite a bit in schools and other places,” Goldberg said. Goldberg, who is half-Jewish, never felt any discomfort due to her religious identity or personally experienced exposure to antisemitism in New York. 

Goldberg recommends the program to other students, as she has enjoyed the balance between traditional learning and experiential learning, an opportunity that she did not have at Horace Mann. However, Goldberg acknowledges that study abroad programs are not fully accessible to all students.  “I have the privilege, both financially and with my mom, to be able to study abroad in high school,” Goldberg said. “Although SYA offers robust financial aid, doing the program is very expensive in combination with HM’s requirement of partial tuition while not attending the school. For those who would be able to, study abroad!”