Students study abroad: Anmy Paulino (11) in South Africa


Ava Lipsky, Staff Writer

“I chose to study abroad because I wanted to experience a different learning environment and interact with people outside of my usual daily life here at HM,” Anmy Paulino (11) said. Paulino recently returned to the school from a semester abroad in South Africa, where she studied at the African Leadership Academy, a boarding school on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

The application for the program involved submitting a series of short essays. “One essay question I found interesting was ‘If your roommate put up a poster that was against one of your beliefs, how would you respond to it?” Paulino said. The questions were designed to see how students thought and whether they would be a good fit for the program.

At the African Leadership Academy, Paulino took classes that were also in her normal school curriculum, such as English and physics, along with a philosophy elective class that included both American and African students. It was very interesting to compare different learning systems, Paulino said. Unlike the American students, the African students were also preparing for advanced global exams.

While the program was mainly academic, Paulino also experienced the local culture through events like field trips and parties, she said. It was easy to acclimate to the program since her peers were kind and welcoming, and there was only a slight language barrier between some students, she said.

Making lifelong friends from both Africa and America was a highlight of the program, Paulino said. “They taught me a lot of things ranging from acceptance and love, to different languages or how to play the guitar.”

Each day, Paulino woke up around seven a.m. to get ready for school, which started at eight a.m. She had lunch on a quiet field outside, where students typically hung out and ate, she said. On some days, she attended assemblies after school and occasionally had classes on the weekends as well. While students were mixed together for most of the time, students in the American program would sometimes be separated from the African program. 

Paulino returned from South Africa in December and started classes at the school the next day.Transitioning back to Horace Mann after studying abroad was hard at first, Paulino said. “I forgot how my classes were, but now it just feels normal.”

It was an amazing experience, she said. “I don’t think many high schoolers can say that they traveled across the continent and studied for a semester.”