Living Outside Loudoun

Woodgrove students have grown up living in the same area their whole lives, and have known many of their friends since childhood. However, some Woodgrove students have had the opportunity to go to school abroad, and while the change may have been intimidating, they have learned from their time outside the states.
Woodgrove senior Mia Spare grew up moving all over the world. Almost immediately after she was born in Annapolis, Maryland, Spare and her family moved to Germany where they lived for the next two years. Since her father works for the State Department, every few years he is relocated to work on something new. After living in Germany, she lived in Austria for four years, India for two years, and then Indonesia for three years before moving to the states in 2010 before her eighth grade year.
“The hardest move I made was to the US. Moving from one international school to another was easier because everyone is in similar situations, and all the schools are kind of connected which makes the transition easier,” said Spare.
When Spare moved stateside, she experienced a culture shock from how people flaunted their wealth.
“Living in third world countries like India and Indonesia as I was growing up taught me never to show off wealth out of respect. In America, the use of wealth as a social status is very apparent. In other countries it’s not quite so obvious, like it is here,” said Spare.
Living in multiple different countries and experiencing all different cultures has been valuable for Spare in more ways than one. The international schools were similar to colleges, in the way that they gave students more responsibility and freedom. The schools Spare attended were private, had no standardized testing, and fostered a feeling of independence in students.
“Going to different schools made me more adaptable to different situations, and I don’t shy away from meeting new people. I was never allowed to be in a shell, and I always had to be outgoing and friendly,” said Spare.
Reflecting on her time spent living abroad, “I’ve loved everywhere that I’ve lived, all for different reasons. I got to experience different cultures and perspectives on the world that really impacted me.”
Teachers, as well as students, have made trips abroad, like Woodgrove’s Mr. Harbaugh. Harbaugh had the chance to venture to Valencia, Spain and attend classes in Literature of Spain and Latin-American Literature.
“I stayed in a dormitory right across the street from the soccer stadium. It was an amazing experience. We were able to see an inter-team scrimmage for free,” said Harbaugh.
During his five week experience, Harbaugh ate local cuisine including Paellaa – yellow rice, chicken, mussels, and shrimp dish – and Tuna salad with tomatoes and green lettuce. On the weekends, he traveled with friends to Pamplona for the San Fermin (running of the bulls) festival and to Roman ruins in Gandia.
Harbaugh also witnessed the different cultural styles expected by the locals.
“The people we stayed with were great; they helped us out with cultural information like wearing jeans and a t-shirt (even though it was 90-95 degrees out) or you would stick out as an American, and keep your hair cut short,” said Harbaugh.
While Spare and Mr. Harbaugh have already experienced life outside Loudoun, Woodgrove student John Grady is currently adapting to his most recent allocation.
After his father was assigned to a military base in Germany for two years, Grady and his family set flight July 1, 2014 – the day U.S.A. lost to Belgium 2-1 in the FIFA World Cup.
“The main difference between here and Loudoun is that I can legally buy beer now,” said Grady comically comparing Germany to Loudoun County.
Grady, a middle school musician and high school basketball player, has missed most of his junior year and is expected to miss his senior year as well. However, all of Grady’s younger siblings are supposed to attend Woodgrove in the future, including his sister Shannon, who was a freshman at Woodgrove during the 2013-2014 school year.
Grady and his family are expected to arrive stateside 2016 after the current junior class graduates, meaning Grady will regroup with his friends in college.
“I have a few schools in mind that I’ve already seen, so it shouldn’t pose a huge threat to me in the college saga,” said Grady.
Since Grady will spend another school year abroad, some of his Woodgrove friends are attempting to raise money to pay for a round trip flight ticket that will bring him back for part of the summer. Students like junior Prakash Ellis and junior Jake Wernle are setting aside a couple dollars each month to chip in for the $899.00 flight ticket.
“To help bring John back, I got some of his closest friends to save a little money each month, including me,” said Ellis. “We really miss him and want to see him again before he starts his senior year.”