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Oakes's Corner

American Schools Abroad- A life Changing Experience

By Oakes Hunnewell, Ed.M., CEP

A few weeks ago, an old colleague of mine who had taught with me at a boarding school in New Hampshire came to see me. He is now the Director of Admission at Leysin American School in Switzerland. Leysin has students coming from countries throughout the world as well as children of American families who are stationed abroad for employment reasons. Leysin is not the only American boarding school in Europe. TASIS (The American School in Switzerland) is located in the Italian region of Switzerland. Some European boarding schools like L’École d’Humanité offer an American curriculum to accommodate its American population as well. There are many such schools, most of them, oddly enough, are found in Switzerland which is not a bad place to go to school being surrounded by snow capped mountains and breath taking views.

Imagine spending your high school years in Switzerland. You would learn a second language and would ski at some of the most famous and quintessentially alpine ski resorts in the world. Your classmates would come from all parts of the globe. As an alumnus, there would be no place on earth you could go and not be able to pick up the phone and call someone. I knew a woman in college who had attended one of these schools. She had nothing but good things to say. She was also one of the most interesting people I met in college.

Due to the transient nature of some of their students, many boarding schools in Europe do offer “abbreviated” enrollment periods. Depending on how the school calendar is structured, student may enroll for a trimester, semester or year.

The market for semester programs also exists in the US. The list is long- Oxbow, Woolman, City term, Island School etc…). The market exists because students can have these once in a lifetime experiences with no disruption to their academics. Pam Clarke, Head of Trevor Day School in New York City, says “The main reason to allow your students to go to a semester school is that their experience will be life-transforming and will reflect very well on them and on your school. There are few opportunities to change the course of adolescence for the better, and a semester school is one prominent opportunity.” There is absolutely no reason why boarding schools abroad could not be included on that list of semester opportunities. Please keep in mind that these schools are also fantastic options as three and four year diploma schools. Families from the US do send their children there to complete high school. If you or anyone you know is interested in such an experience, please investigate. It could be life changing.


Leysin American School in Switzerland-

Leysin American School is situated in the French speaking portion of Switzerland near Geneva and Lausanne. LAS is a college preparatory boarding school enrolling about 340 students from over 60 different countries. In addition to 9th-12th grades, it offers an 8th grade as well as a post graduate year.

Unlike many independent schools in the US, Leysin is family owned. The Otts founded the school in 1960 and continue to operate it today. The school offers a US diploma as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB). The daily schedule changes throughout the year. When the snow arrives, the academic day is shortened on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that students may take advantage of the numerous skiing options that surround the school. As part of its ‘Travel Curriculum’ during the year the school sponsors a number of cultural trips within Switzerland and to countries throughout Europe. These trips are offered as weekend excursions and as longer trips ranging from 3-7 days. How could you learn about European History without visiting the many historic sites throughout the Continent.


If you would like to find out more about Leysin American School, Please contact Paul Dyer, Director of Admissions, at 305-677-3661 or myself at 508-650-4600.