This fall, while Deerfield seniors begin their final year of high school and fill out their college applications, Leanne Conway ’11 will do the exact same thing-only at King’s Academy in Jordan, founded in 2007 by King Abdullah II of Jordan, who started the sister school in appreciation of the education he received from Deerfield.
To prepare for her year abroad, Conway took Arabic for three years and attended an intensive Arabic program at the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy for the month of July. She had 240 hours of class time and 110 hours of informal learning, sworn to the Language Pledge the entire time. Conway and the other program members signed the pledge on their first night, cementing their commitment to only speak Arabic for the entire month.
“They were extremely strict about the pledge,” Conway said, “and an entire month without English enhanced my level of Arabic immensely.”
Conway does not anticipate that the year will be without cultural differences and challenges.
She expects that King’s will have a Middle Eastern culture, as many of the faculty and a high percentage of the student body are Middle Eastern, a major difference from the Deerfield community.
Despite this difference, Conway said that the biggest challenge would be arriving as a new senior.
“I know from starting Deerfield as a freshman that after four years of the same environment you grow extremely close with one another and have very strong friendships,” she said.
Conway also expects that the college application process will be more difficult. Once she goes to Jordan, she will not have the opportunity to make any more college visits, and will need to work through a major time difference. But Conway remained optimistic, saying, “With mostly everything online these days I don’t suspect it will be a huge issue.”
Without question, Conway said she will miss the people at Deerfield the most.
“I have amazing friends from all grades that I will miss dearly,” Conway said. “Everyone that I have met at Deerfield has touched my experience there one way or another and certain faculty members have without a doubt changed my life.”
Conway has attended Deerfield since she was a freshman, and hails from West Springfield, Massachusetts. In her decision to go to Jordan, Conway acted upon her instincts.
“This could be the opportunity of a lifetime and I couldn’t imagine passing that up,” said Conway, who is confident that going to King’s will be “a life-changing experience.”
She hopes to be as involved in the community at King’s as she was at Deerfield, where she ran track and cross country, played ice hockey her freshman and sophomore year, and was a member of Round Square, Debate Team, and the Arabic club. Conway looks forward to participating in new activities she has never tried before.
“You have to be willing to put everything you have into it,” she said of her coming year.
Another of Conway’s goals is to make lifelong friends at King’s, just as she has at Deerfield. She also aspires to immerse herself in Jordanian culture.
Conway also cherishes Deerfield’s traditions. “A fall without Disco, Choate Day, or even Sadie’s will simply not be the same,” she declared.
At the same time, what Conway will miss most about Deerfield is what she is most excited for at King’s: making new friends and meeting new people.
In the spring, Conway is excited to graduate from both King’s and Deerfield, receiving two diplomas.
“All in all,” Conway said, “I am extremely excited to enjoy the short time I have there-if I have learned anything from Deerfield, it’s to cherish every day, because time really does fly.”