Andrea Gura ’19 brings a unique perspective to learning.
“I tend to see things as magnified or zoomed in,” explains Andrea, “then look for experiences that will carry me to the opposite view—the broader, zoomed out perspective.”
An example, she says, is her understanding of Quechua. Growing up in Ecuador, Andrea learned about her country’s native tongue, the language of the Incan Empire. She learned about the Spanish conquests, the initial dissemination of the language, and its ultimate decline.
“I began thinking about this small language and its place within all of Spanish-speaking Ecuador, and then of Ecuador’s place within the Spanish-speaking world, and the bigger context of Spanish being spoken in countries across the globe. It’s that bigger, global context that is so exciting to me,” Andrea says. “I really want to see places—to learn new languages, taste different foods, feel different emotions, and make memories in new places... I will learn how these things have their own place within their culture, and then how that culture plays its role as a part of our remarkably multifaceted world…”
And she is. Andrea is spending her upper mid-year in Viterbo, Italy, 65 miles northwest of Rome, through the School Year Abroad (SYA) program.
“Right now I have a broad view of Italy, some understanding of it and its character. I’m eager to get a close-up view and learn the language and the culture, to explore its history, and art, and music. I want to be a bit of an ambassador of all the things I do here at Taft, then bring all the things I learn there back to the Taft community.”
Andrea’s study abroad certainly supports her work as an EcoMon, one of Taft’s environmental student leaders and educators. In Italy, she is studying Applied Agroecology, a multidisciplinary science course that looks to ancient agricultural systems to build a more complete understanding of the current challenges facing our food and water supply—something Andrea is already passionate about.
“I am very interested in water conservation,” says Andrea. “That comes from growing up next to the Andes. I’ve seen the glaciers get smaller and smaller, so it’s very real to me.”
As are other global issues Andrea has come to understand.
“Ecuador is a developing country. I’ve grown up knowing a side of that world that many of my peers have not seen,” Andrea explains. “In that regard, serving the community is very important to me. My position on Taft’s Community Service Board allowed me, for example, to raise funds and collect non-perishable items for my home last year, after Ecuador experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes in decades.”
In Italy, Andrea is involved with the Global Issues Network, along with other SYA students studying in Europe.
“I’m learning how people from all over the world work to impact common issues,” says Andrea, “and plan to bring those ideas to Taft’s Community Service Board.”
And just as Andrea has brought lessons from her life in Ecuador to Watertown, so, too, brings her Taft experience to Italy. Where her passions will continue to be nurtured, grown, and shared.
“My sister said to me, 'Andrea, why go to Italy? You are already abroad at Taft?' And I thought, ‘But why stop there?’”
This video of Andrea in Viterbo, produced by School Year Abroad. School Year Abroad (SYA) is a nonprofit organization focused on providing yearlong high school study abroad programs. SYA operates four sites in China, France, Italy and Spain, and designs its immersive programs to develop skills for an increasingly interdependent world. With over 7,800 alumni since 1964, SYA is a school fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Central to the SYA experience is the adventure of fully engaging with different languages, cultures and peoples.