After ten months abroad, Kirsten Hawley touched down on American soil at midnight on the night of June 18. Less than 48 hours later, she delivered the valedictory at Middletown High School.
Hawley spent her senior year of high school on a Rotary International foreign exchange program in Lyon, France, where she lived with a French host family and attended a French lycee, or secondary school.
"I was really ready to discover something new, to explore a new culture," Hawley said of her decision to go abroad.
But after years of acing her classes in America, Hawley said she had difficulty in school for the first time this year as she struggled to understand courses taught entirely in French. By as the year went on, her French improved. She left France fluent in the language.
Before she departed for France, Hawley left her mark on Middletown High School, where she participated in the drama club, rowed crew, and wrote for and edited the campus newspaper, Blue Prints. She also had an impact off campus, teaching creative writing at the Green Street Arts Center in Middletown and studying the function of the protein histone-H1 in an epigenetics lab at Wesleyan. All the while, Hawley found time to secure the top GPA in her class.
Hawley is bound for Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in the fall, where she will double major in biology and literature.