Going Abroad as a Senior

Yes, I am missing my senior year. Yes, I am aware that senior year is considered the epitome of the high school experience, the year I've been waiting for ever since I was a freshman cowering in the face of the seniors' infallible power. Senior prom! Senior grad night at Disneyland! Senior ditch day! Will I physically miss all those things? Yes. Will I emotionally miss it? Not really.

Prom is first thing people ask about when they find out I'm missing senior year. I went to prom as a sophomore, I'm going again as a junior; honestly, it's overrated. It was fun, but it's not a reason to pass up the greatest opportunity I've ever had. So I won't have a typical senior year. Big deal. I'll be having an amazing senior year in Latvia. My main concern about being abroad as a senior is college apps. (Details after the jump.)

I'll be applying to college while I'm in Latvia. I plan on writing my essays this summer before I leave, and I'll probably write another one about my experience in Latvia while I'm there. But apps are more than essays: there's getting the transcripts from my school in California, recommendation letters from my teachers back home, the essays on the application you don't know beforehand. I don't even know if my Latvian family will have a computer at home, and all the application materials are online. 

My most pressing concern, however, is stress. College apps are stressful - everyone knows that. And the first few months of an exchange are the hardest, according to what I've heard. I've been preparing as much as possible to try and take some of the pressure off. In two weeks I'll be visiting my top college choices over spring break - having admissions interviews, talking to the chairs of the Russian/Slavic Studies departments, etc. When it comes to the actual process of applying, I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I think that I'm on track.

I don't know anyone else who's spent their senior year abroad. I was originally planning on junior year, but I wanted to spend two consecutive years at my current school (I transferred there as a sophomore.) Senior year also is better for me personally; I will be leaving my home but spending a year with another family before making the transition to living by myself in college. It would be strange to have lived at home, gone abroad, and returned for my senior year to a three-person household (my brother would be away at college). It would be anticlimactic, and I would just spend senior year impatiently waiting for college. I've also exhausted the academic options at my school in English and Spanish - I'd have nowhere to go.

As for graduation credits, there are a few snafus. My guidance counselor told me that I'll be able to get credits for classes that translate easily - math for math, science for science, foreign language for Latvian/Russian, etc. - but that for classes such as English, it would be more difficult. English as a foreign language won't count for my English credits, so I will only have three years of English. Four are needed to graduate. There's also a problem with US Government/Economics - there's probably Econ in Latvia, but there won't be US Gov. Those three classes are going to be the biggest hinderance to my graduation. I would obviously like to graduate, and I hope I can work something out with my school, but even if I can't, I'm going to Latvia. If it doesn't work out, I will get my GED. I've spoken to admissions officers at the colleges to which I plan on applying, and they've told me that they love exchange students, particularly to less common places like Latvia, and they understand if graduation isn't possible because of  going abroad. 

I think I've planned far enough ahead to keep the stress down and successfully get my apps done. Senior year is supposed to be the year of great adventure and fun. I can't think of a better way to spend it.

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