East Lyme senior following his dreams to Paris
East Lyme — East Lyme High School Senior Nathan am Ende said he has learned over his years of high school how to juggle a "million different things."
Between practicing dance, diving, doing homework and working at his job at the Dairy Queen in Niantic, the high school senior and competitively ranked dancer has worked hard to accomplish what makes him happy.
Now, the 17-year-old East Lyme resident is about to reach another goal he has been working toward throughout high school: majoring in chemistry at Sorbonne University this fall.
The idea to study in Paris first came to him during a family trip to France four years ago, when his grandmother mentioned that it would be cool if he went to college there since he loved the country so much. He hadn't considered the possibility before but, the more he thought about it, the more he realized he wanted to study there.
"I’m just set on that’s really what I want to do," am Ende said. "I mean I can go to college there, so why not?"
He said his travels with his family to France several times — as well as visits to other countries — broadened his perspective of the world. He enjoys the challenge of speaking the French language, the opportunity to experience a different culture and all the history in France.
His first year will be focused on French language courses, followed by chemistry. After finishing his studies, am Ende is interested in starting his career with research at a French company. The work his parents do as chemical engineers in pharmaceuticals interests him. He's also interested in how chemicals affect the human body and the environment.
He said he's excited for the adventure of moving to a new country while continuing to pursue the interests he loves, particularly dance.
At age 8, am Ende began dancing after he saw his sister, and later his brother, performing and wanted to try it, too.
He is now in his 10th year of dancing competitively — he does tap, jazz, ballet, modern, hip hop and contemporary dance — and has placed within the top five dancers for his age in solos for contemporary, jazz and tap in regional competitions. His dance honors include Mr. StarQuest in Providence in 2017, Mr. Elite Dance Challenge in Bridgeport in 2017 and, this year, Mr. Centerstage in Mystic and first place overall senior solo at Dance Educators of America in Boston.
At his dance studio, The Dancer's Edge in East Lyme, am Ende said he has made a close-knit group of friends that's almost like a family. He also performs duos with his brother, Noah, 16, with the siblings' connection enabling them to dance in sync.
He said he loves that he can always work on a different aspect of dance.
"There's always something more to learn, something more to try," he said. "I think that's really cool."
He said dance also helped him with another activity he does: diving, a sport that's very mental. The sport can be nerve-wracking but the satisfaction of conquering his fears is worth it, he said.
Claudia Melo, the executive director of Dancer's Edge, said she's had the pleasure of having am Ende as a student at the studio for the past 10 years. He came to the studio as a young boy and is now leaving as a young man.
"From the beginning he was a charismatic, funny and friendly child," she said by email. "Those qualities still remain now. Becoming the dancer he is today was a journey. Dance provided the outlet for him to express emotions and taught him resiliency, dedication, and tenacity. Those qualities will serve him well as he pursues the next chapter of his life. I couldn't be prouder to have him as my student and for all that he has achieved throughout his dance journey!"
As he prepares to graduate from high school in June, am Ende said dancing has taught him to follow his own path.
"I think the fact that I dance even though not too many other boys do really helped me realize that I don't have to do what everyone else is doing if I don't want to, and that this can be applied to all aspects of my life, including college," he said. "I want to go to school in France, and just because not many other kids are going to school there doesn't mean that I shouldn't."
He said he has learned through dance competitions that it's important to be humble and that a score or a placement, while nice, ultimately isn't everything. Whether dancing or working toward his dream of studying in Paris, am Ende said he does it for his own happiness.
"It's nice to get an idea of what some people think about you but, I think in the end, the only thing that really matters is how you think about yourself and whether or not you’re happy with what you’ve done, how you’ve performed," he said.