US student Kenta Neary (far right) gained a new appreciation for diversity – and geography – on a Secondary School Exchange to Durham School
I am Kenta Neary and I had a great experience in my year aboard studying in the UK. I learned interesting new subjects, tried new sports, experienced a different culture and, most importantly, met incredible people.
Born and raised in New York’s Upper West Side, for high school I attended Kent School, a co-ed boarding school in Connecticut. In the spring of my junior year there I learned about the ESU and its Secondary School Exchange. Whereas most of my classmates did not care for another year of school, I was fascinated by the chance to study abroad before taking up my place as a mechanical engineering major at Binghamton University. What appealed to me was the chance to take classes that I couldn’t at Kent. Furthermore, the fact that the program is completely free ensured that there would be no financial limitations.
I had never been to Europe, so I did not know what to expect in England. My knowledge of the UK mostly came from Harry Potter and the Premier League. I knew little about the northeast, so when I found out that I would be going to Durham School, the first thing I did was to google where Durham was – I learned that it was quite a way from London.
Despite being the only new student, my classmates were very friendly and eager to learn about me. We quickly connected over similar interests like the Premier League, and attending a Newcastle vs Manchester United match in Newcastle with my new friends was one of the highlights of my stay. I’d only ever seen Manchester United on TV, so seeing them live in person was awesome. Furthermore, despite being underdogs, Newcastle won the match 1-0 which made the whole stadium’s atmosphere electric. The other event that I particularly enjoyed was my history class trip to Russia in February. We visited museums, palaces and various historical sites as well as more modern attractions like ice skating rinks and shopping malls. Being able to travel around Moscow and St. Petersburg was an amazing opportunity that I am grateful for.
Overall, my time on the Secondary School Exchange was incredible. Despite it being cut short due to coronavirus, I was able to experience what life at a UK boarding school is like. One thing that I learned from Durham School was the importance of learning one’s role in the world. Specifically, geography class (a class which was not available at Kent) opened my eyes to the great diversity the exists not just globally, but locally as well. Additionally, my time at Durham School gave me a lot of close friends to whom I am still close. Even though we live far apart, we still connect how we can, and I hope that our paths cross again.