This interview originally appeared in 2007 in “VII Questions for Alumni,” a column in the Alumni Newsletter that gives us a peek at life after, but not without, C&C. Neala Horner graduated from Marymount School and Gettysburg College.
When you think of C&C, what is the first thing that pops into your mind?
When I think of C&C the first thing that I think of is Yard in the springtime. Some of my best memories from City and Country take place in the Yard— the first days when we were able to shed our jackets and pile them on the green bench because it was finally warm outside. Yard was a great time for my group to just have fun together— I remember laughing a lot.
What was your favorite Job at C&C?
My favorite job at C&C was working on the printing press in the 11s. I remember feeling very accomplished after first learning how to run the press. I remember making the literary magazine, organizing the individual letters for our poems was maddening, but once I had finished binding the pages together it was amazing to know that we had made the whole thing, every step.
How did your experience at C&C prepare you for high school?
The transition from City and Country to my high school was interesting. There is no denying that I had been introduced to schoolwork in a completely different manner than my new classmates, and there were a few things that I had to catch up on. But the main difference was my general approach towards schoolwork. Instead of being stressed out about being the top student in the class I was interested in understanding the material.
Once during a class, a friend turned to me and said that I should be taking better notes – I should be writing word for word quotes like she was scribbling down. I didn't know how to explain to her that it was more important to me that I understand the main concepts and thoroughly comprehend what the teacher was talking about and then write down notes to remind me of what I had gotten out of that lesson. And you know what? When the test came around, I did just fine.
What does it mean to you to be a lifelong learner?
A lifelong learner is someone who asks questions when he or she has one and actively participates in every aspect of life. Once I entered college, I was amazed by how little people could do and still manage to 'get by.' A lifelong learner takes every opportunity to experience new things and meet new people, and no matter how boring a class seems, they never just 'get by.'
Describe something that you recently “learned by doing.”
Throughout high school I always had a hard time with language. I took Spanish for three years and it was an uphill battle. In college, I had to pick it up again and, unfortunately, it was not any easier the second time around. I needed to take four semesters of Spanish, so I took two semesters my freshman year and then that summer I went to Mexico. I lived with a family in Cuernavaca for six weeks during the months of May and June.
I went to Mexico alone and met some really nice people at the school I attended. My host family did not speak a word of English, which in the end turned out to be the very best thing. I learned more Spanish in those six weeks than I had in all of my classes. I was able to travel in Mexico and was practicing my Spanish every step of the way, in the shops and markets around town and at home eating dinner with my 'family.' It was a little scary going to a foreign country alone, but in the end it turned out to be a priceless experience.
How does C&C touch your everyday life?
I still have very close friends from my group with whom I talk regularly and we love to reminisce about time spent reading in the Library or working with the IVs. Honestly, as I get older and look back on my twelve years at C&C and compare it to my other friends’ grade school experiences, I realize how unique the School is. It is not uncommon for me to find myself explaining to a group at lunch how to stretch deer hide to make parchment paper or how in the fourth grade I traveled on the Oregon Trail.
Today, when I am going crazy studying for a midterm or up late writing a paper, I am able to put things into perspective because of C&C. My grades aren't everything, so I can feel good about just knowing that I did the best that I can. This is a special quality that I came away from City and Country with that has helped me throughout all of my academic experiences so far.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
My twelve years at C&C were magical. There is really no other way to put it. Whenever I tell people that I grew up in New York City or that I hope to raise my own children there someday, they don't really understand why. My friends who grew up in the suburbs don't think that the city is a place for children. I can understand their perspective, but I loved it and I think that C&C is what made it work. I don't even think of the School being in the city and I still feel that way when I walk through the doors. The community and quaint school is what grounds small children who otherwise could be swept away by a competitive, loud and at times very dirty city. City and Country gives city kids the chance to be kids, to grow up and learn. So, in ten years I see myself living in New York City, a diverse and beautiful city that is overflowing with life and energy and that has so much to offer people of all ages. And, I guess by that point I will be a mom to a bunch of city kids who all go to C&C.