Four months ago, I left Concord Academy, along with the rest of my life in Massachusetts, behind, and embarked on a new journey in Washington D.C. During that time, I attended a semester away program called The School for Ethics and Global Leadership, more commonly referred to as SEGL. This program is composed of 24 kids from across the country—including a few international students—who come together to discuss ethics, politics, and current events. Furthermore, once a week, or sometimes more frequently, speakers came and shared their expertise with us about the current topic we were studying.

Every day was different, and our schedules were always packed. We would start our days off at around 7:50 a.m. where we would commute to the school building, which required us to take the Metro to Dupont Circle from Capitol Hill—where the dorms are located. Our school day then started at 9:00 a.m. with, what we called, ‘Morning Meeting.’ The whole school, including the faculty, would sit in a circle and discuss news we read, school announcements, and anything that we were grateful for. For example, you could share what you read in the New York Times that morning and give a thank you to a classmate for helping you with your homework. From after Morning Meeting until 4:30 p.m., we would have various classes including history, science, language, English, and ethics and leadership along with a 45-minute lunch break.

No two weeks at SEGL looked the same due to the varying schedules of guest speakers, and different activities we would do. Guest speakers vary for each semester, however, my semester got to meet with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, noted Palestinian negotiator Ghaith al-Omari, Hillary Clinton’s speechwriter Lissa Muscatine, and many more important political figures. Our school days would end with our academic chores. Your chore could be anything from organizing the supply room to cleaning the kitchen to vacuuming the stairs. We would then commute back to the dorms, and get home at around 6 p.m. For the rest of the day, we had exercise time, dinner, residential chores, and then study hall until 10 p.m.

One of my favorite aspects of the program, besides getting to meet and talk with incredible people, was the welcoming and open community. Everyone was very understanding about people’s different backgrounds along with the knowledge and ideas that came from those backgrounds. One of our big projects during our time there was completing a collaborative policy document. My cohort ended up creating a 72-page document about stabilizing the Haitian Government. This project improved all our listening and speaking skills, along with improving our abilities to work in groups. We would often, in our free time, continue discussions outside of class and have civil debates about current events on top of normal teenage discussion topics.

SEGL was one of the best experiences of my life thus far. I have made 23 close friends, along with new connections around the world. I learned how to form well-thought-out opinions by making sure to learn about each side of any argument, along with how to be a more productive student. My critical thinking skills along with my overall view of the world have changed for the better.

One of the main drawbacks of applying is the idea of having to leave CA and your life behind for four months. Though it can feel as if you are leaving your entire life behind, it is important to note the new life you are gaining. My world feels so much more expansive, and I have not felt the feeling of missing out so far. The re-entry to CA has been smooth and easy; the students have been welcoming and the teachers have been helpful. The pros of SEGL have greatly outweighed the cons, and I encourage all interested to apply. You will not regret it!