Claudia Sindoni: A Year Abroad in Germany

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Juniors frantically flipping through pages of their textbooks, lack of sleep written all over their faces as they anxiously cram for test after test; whether it be in the library or hallways, it’s a familiar sight to us all. There is, after all, a good reason for junior year’s title being “hell year.” It’s typically a year spent focusing on academics, marked by AP classes and standardized tests. Claudia Sindoni (’20), although still forgoing the typical anxieties of junior year, is spending said hell year surrounded by the beauty and calm of rustic scenes; she’s exploring castles and forests in Germany, a country filled with nature and old buildings, during a year abroad.

Sindoni, who has attended school in Tenafly her whole life, decided during sophomore year to spend her 2018-19 school year in Germany. Through working with a program endorsed by both the United States and German governments, she was given a scholarship and the opportunity to spend the year in a foreign country. She arrived in Germany in August of 2018 to begin her stay for the full length of her junior year. She has plans to return to Tenafly in June of 2019.

Knowing what junior year at THS is normally like, Sindoni knew she didn’t want to have “the normal junior year experience.” She wanted to be able to experience something different from the “usual Tenafly thing” and realized that going abroad would be her chance to go beyond the boundaries of this town. Rather than just studying by the book, this year has presented Sindoni with an abundance of opportunities to grow outside the classroom, and she sticks by her decision, saying that she “definitely made the right choice for [herself].”

Her year, however, has not been without its own set of challenges. While she doesn’t face the same stresses of the typical junior, she has indeed met her own unique set of obstacles in Germany. She has had to completely integrate herself into German culture, staying with a host family and attending school, where she even takes classes in German. She says that the hardest part for her has “definitely been making friends and getting involved” because of a difference in culture and lack of after-school activities. She describes the stress of feeling as though she’s “not learning German fast enough or making friends fast enough.” She has clearly taken initiative, though, having joined the club swim team and orchestra. 

Her year abroad is based in Husum, but Sindoni has been taking this time to search for even more new adventures. She plans to travel more around Europe, having already taken the opportunity to visit Denmark and multiple surrounding German islands. She says that she and her friends are planning to visit an eastern European city, excitedly describing the plans they have ahead. As though traveling across the globe isn’t excitement enough, Sindoni is also currently training to run a marathon in April.

Sindoni views this year as a chance to grow as an individual, having to be more independent than ever before. “By the end of the year, I’ll have become so much of a stronger person because I don’t have anyone to tell me what I need to do. I need to just do it for myself. I think I’m going to be learning about myself this year,” she said.

From talking to Sindoni, it is very apparent that her experience abroad has been an enjoyable one, as her happy, confident demeanor shone through for the whole interview. If you’re thinking about traveling or studying abroad, Claudia Sindoni would advise you to act on it! 

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