Why was everyone you know out of town this summer?

CIEE numbers spike after two years in isolation.

Isabelle Greenberg

For the first time in two years, Instagram feeds were flooded with travel photos of our classmates in places like Barcelona, Spain; Rabat, Morocco; and Seville, Spain. These were their first solo trips around the globe through the study abroad organization CIEE.

Senior Ella Ridgeway said, “Being in isolation for a year and a half and all of a sudden coming back and being like, ‘Okay. I just want to leave. I want to go out and do that.’”

Ridgeway has seen firsthand the drastic change in CIEE’s popularity over the course of her high school career. “When I started as a freshman, you had to do your own research even though we have such a great partnership with CIEE. Now I’m hearing it everywhere and it’s awesome.”

As COVID-19 fades into the shadows, the number of people studying abroad has increased by 264% at WSHS. The pandemic sparked a need among the younger generation to get out into the world and led them to CIEE, the oldest study abroad organization in the country.

The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) has been around since 1947. It has had a connection with WSHS for five years, brought to the school by current French teacher Megan Schumacher.

CIEE was founded just after WWII to promote globalization from a young age. It has since grown into a worldwide organization with programs in over 30 countries around the world.

Schumacher wishes she had studied abroad in high school. This regret has led her to propose CIEE to many students. “Sometimes you don’t do something and then you really wish you had so you become really passionate about promoting,” she said.

Ridgeway said, “I’ve been saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this’ to my younger friends, and they get really excited.” Seeing middle schoolers research CIEE has made Ridgeway realize the vast difference between young people pre- and post- pandemic.

She believes underclassmen are “way more prepared for these types of trips” than she was at their age.

Junior Elena Smith said, “It’s really all about your maturity and your comfortability with being away from your support system back in your hometown.” After putting off her study abroad trip her freshman year, Smith is confident that knowing yourself is crucial to getting on that plane.

Smith and Ridgeway met on the Marine Biology program in Spain. They are now promoting CIEE alongside Schumacher as applications for the summer sessions open.

Schumacher said this experience has changed her life. A universal sentiment shared by the 40 students who lived her dream this summer.