Seniors Anna and Clara Grillo share study abroad plans for their gap years

by Sophie Yang, ’19

Between Mandarin studies in Beijing, college applications and a spring semester in Europe, seniors and twin sisters Anna and Clara Grillo are planning a busy and learning-filled gap year.

Seniors Anna (right) and Clara Grillo (left) will attend a summer program in China. Photo by Grace Call.

Their first stop, Clara said, will be in Beijing for a nine-week study abroad program organized by CET Academic Programs. The program, which hosts about 50 international students each paired with Chinese roommates, is held at Capital Normal University and will last from mid-June to mid-August.

“It’s an intensive, immersive language program,” Clara said. “It’s for college kids, so we’ll be the youngest people there [and] we’ll be getting a college type experience.”

Anna said she was looking forward to the program.

“There’s a no-English pledge,” Anna said. “I’m hoping to improve my understanding of [Mandarin] and learn more about the culture. Everyone always says how the Chinese food here isn’t actual Chinese food … We’re learning Chinese but also taking tours in the city on culture. We also have cuisine and classes on culture. We have to do a Wushu [a Chinese martial arts] class.”

Anna said she thought studying abroad in China was a chance to become immersed in another culture—something impossible with short vacations.

“You can travel to different places around the world, but you’re not actually [seeing] a lifestyle,” Anna said. “I’m looking forward to that.”

While Anna and Clara will be on their own during the program, Clara said their parents would accompany them to China the week before.

“We’re going to tour and visit the orphanage [in Hefei, China] that we were from,” Clara said.

In the fall, Anna and Clara will return to Upper Arlington to work on their college applications. They’ll also make plans in Europe for the following spring, potentially in music since both play the violin, piano and trumpet.

“In the spring it’ll mostly just be traveling,” Clara said. “There are options in Scotland with a music program. We’re not really sure yet. We’ll probably find internships or some sort of program to study abroad.”

Clara said she and Anna had been considering this gap year since they were sophomores first thinking about university.

“It just lets us see more of the world and experience new things before throwing ourselves back into school,” Clara said. “We figured the best time to improve our language and other aspects of our lives was a gap year.”

Anna and Clara plan to stay together during their gap year, but Clara said they’re open to splitting up.

“I think we’ve been together so long and we do a lot of our things together. But at the same time, we’ve grown enough as individuals that it wouldn’t be that difficult to separate. We’re close enough that it wouldn’t come between us,” Clara said.

Anna agreed.

“[Clara literally said] what I was going to say I think it’d be a little bit of an adjustment—it’d still be scary and new. But besides that, I think we’d be fine,” she said. “[We’ll go] wherever fate takes us.”