When deciding on the next steps for her education, 16-year-old Abby knew she wanted one that would be unique to her previous experience. “I realized at my school everybody was the same,” says Abby, from New Jersey. “There was no difference between us. I had known them for basically my whole life. I wanted a closer connection with people who were different from me.”
She chose one of EF Academy International Boarding Schools. With campuses in Westchester County, New York, Pasadena, California, and Oxford, England, the highly acclaimed network of schools are known for their diverse community and modern approach to education. More than that, it actively integrates a global mindset into its academic curriculum, a natural result of a campus of students and staff from over 60 countries.
EF Academy Pasadena does so through its Global Leadership Program. This is a four-year experience centered around designing and implementing solutions that align with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. At its heart is a curriculum that focuses on project-based learning — giving students plenty of opportunities to develop key competencies such as inquisitiveness, a global mindset, cultural sensitivity, and strategic thinking.
EF Academy New York’s IB Diploma Program integrates specialized internationally-focused electives with the existing global-based International Baccalaureate curriculum. While all three campuses may have unique elements to their curriculum, they all share the component of an internationally recognized high school curriculum.
“One of my favorite classes was Global Perspectives,” says Abby. “From the minute I heard of it, I knew I wanted to take this class. Here we did many activities including how to write a research paper and talking about current events.”
This, says Abby, is what sets the class apart. “When the Russia-Ukraine war broke out, we had both Ukrainians and Russians in the class,” she says. “We had such a wonderful discussion on the different perspectives of people from different countries. We had a debate but everybody was so respectful of each other and their perspectives.”
This accepting and culturally sensitive attitude is a strength few American — and indeed, international — high schools can claim to have. It’s exactly what drew Bangladeshi-born Nameeda to its grounds.
“When I stepped onto the campus, accents from various languages and people from different parts of the world greeted me,” she says. “It was overwhelming and stressful, but we all wanted the same thing — to be friends — and my nervous energy dissipated into excitement.”
Being so far away from home, Nameeda was concerned about the regular challenges of boarding school — adjusting to her new dorm and living with students who come from completely different backgrounds, for example.
“Friendship from students, residential staff and even teachers supported me throughout my journey and in every new direction I ventured,” she says. “It was the kind words, thoughtful gestures, comforting presence and lastly, compassion that helped me every time I felt wavered. It was friends who knocked on my door, asked me how I was doing and heard me rant when I felt like I was struggling.”
That’s not to distract from the school’s strength in delivering unparalleled teaching. Progressive and innovative methodologies are implemented across every aspect of learning at EF Academy.
“By far, the best class was IB History with Mr. Paul Giordano,” says Andie, a former student at EF Academy. “His class is memorable because he made it fun and interactive and worked very hard to try to peel back the stress of the IB History course. He always challenged us to think outside of the box and connect what seemed like extremely different things to each other, which helped me learn how to think critically and take my learning to the next level.”
Of course, no student learns in the same way — a fact that EF Academy is intimately familiar with. As such, teachers are regularly helping students navigate their individual learning styles. “I’m a very kinetic learner by nature,” says Andie. “A reading assignment will not teach me the things that a practical, hands-on approach would. Unfortunately for me, a lot of classes in the IB program were reading heavy.”
Teachers at EF Academy were quick to help Andie find solutions that would satisfy this learning style. “Mr. Giordano would have us make posters or graphics about the information we were learning or details about what we were learning to contextualize, which allowed me to go to other teachers, like my Chemistry teacher, and find similar ways to engage in her class, too,” they say.
What set Andie’s experience at EF Academy apart, however, was the many opportunities they had to not only explore the world around them, but to explore and question themselves in their extracurriculars, as well. Andie found this in the Pride Not Prejudice club.
“Before coming to EF Academy New York, I didn’t go to schools that facilitated a LGBTQ+ club, and only had a few friends that were queer,” they say. “Joining the Pride Not Prejudice club was the first time I had a community of LGBTQ+ people to support me. While it was really scary at first, it definitely gave me the space I needed to think about and articulate how I felt about my identity.”
With support across all aspects, many EF Academy graduates go on to achieve remarkable levels of success — 99% of graduating students were accepted into university, collectively receiving 1,052 offers. The Class of 2021 can now be found at the likes of prestigious institutions such as The Cooper Union, Parsons School of Design, New York University, Boston University, University of California – Los Angeles, and Vanderbilt University. . The other 1% took a gap year to travel, work on their self-discovery, or take part in volunteer work.
Most of all, they graduate with an experience that has changed them — for good. “Before my time at EF Academy, I was a grade-centered perfectionist,” says Andie. “I’m now someone who understands that failing was the first step at growing and becoming better.”
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