South Orangetown Central School District

#ProudTZGrad Ryan Zohar (‘15) wasn’t settled on a major when he was applying to colleges, but knew he wanted an international component. “My history, literature, and language courses at TZ played a huge role in helping me realize this. At first, I wanted to study international relations. I thought that if I were really committed to studying an internationally-oriented discipline, I needed to spend part of my undergraduate studies outside of the U.S. When I heard about the Dual BA Program between Columbia University and Sciences Po, it seemed like a perfect fit. It allowed me to combine a rigorous education with the opportunity to explore places I would not have otherwise seen. Through the program and fellowships I received as an undergraduate, I’ve studied in the U.S., France, Oman and Egypt, and visited upwards of 30 countries.”

Ryan spent his first two years of college studying Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies on the Middle East-Mediterranean Campus of the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Menton, France. He returned to New York for his third and fourth years to focus on Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology at Columbia, and graduated in May with a bachelor of arts degree from each institution.

“My college experience challenged me academically and personally in ways I would have never expected. My time at these two universities did not just allow me to achieve a list of preset goals I brought with me after having graduated high school. It has changed me and the very idea of what my path should be,” Ryan explains. “I am currently studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan as a Fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad. The fellowship provides full funding for my studies and living costs. At the end of this year, I will take the Arabic ACTFL exam with the goal of certifying superior-level proficiency.”

In Fall 2020, Ryan will enter the University of Michigan’s doctoral program in Sociocultural Anthropology to focus on Middle Eastern Jewish communities, an extension of his undergraduate thesis on how Iraqi-Jews living in Israel remember Iraq almost 70 years after their departure.

Ryan credits several South Orangetown teachers with challenging him and encouraging him to pursue his interests. “Ms. McMane whipped my essays into shape and taught me how to write with a structure as persuasive as I believed my arguments to be. Mr. Matulac, who I never had as a teacher, was a crucial mentor to me and taught me how to really be critical when reading–he also taught me how to beat the buzzer in Academic League Tournaments, and for that he is owed another debt entirely. Mr. Burgos and Ms. Arietta taught me that language courses are always more about what happens outside the classroom than what happens inside them. They demanded a rigor which allowed me to later be more confident when completing coursework in both French and Arabic. Mr. Robertson’s AP Euro class made me realize I’d never be done studying: I’ll be in school until at least halfway through the next decade. I also want to give a shout-out to Mr. Anderson at SOMS, who spurred my interest in the social sciences when I was just a wacky little kid!”

Participation in Academic League, History Honor Society and Student Organization enabled Ryan to combine academic and personal interests. “Clubs and activities are often just as important for your future path as your work inside the classroom,” he advises current TZHS students. “Don’t just focus on classes and activities as isolated units, try to forge connections between them. These interdisciplinary links can lead you down roads that are waiting for someone new to take on.”

Our #ProudTZGrad campaign highlights recent Tappan Zee High School alumni who are excelling in an area that is directly connected to their academic and/or school-based extracurricular pursuits at TZHS.

TZHS alumnus Ryan Zohar in Umm Qais, Jordan.