Foreign student population increases
December 6, 2011
Remember your first day of school? Though it was a nerve-racking experience to be new to such a different environment, consider international students. Not only are they adjusting to a new school, but they are also getting used to a new way of life in a completely different country and culture as well.
New international students to Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School represent more than ten countries from around the world, including Singapore, Germany, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Guatemala, to name a few. With a total of 35 new foreign students at Saint Stephen’s just this year, the international population of the school has risen to 5% of the entire student body. This percentage supports Saint Stephen’s goal of being a well-rounded school community populated with people from all over the globe.
Junior Arne John from Germany said his decision to enroll at Saint Stephen’s was easily made.
“I went one day here in eighth grade and liked it so much that I came here for an exchange year,” he said.
Like John, Jesper Eriksson, a junior from Sweden, remarked that he “heard [Saint Stephen’s] was a good school with a good education.”
Similar to John and Eriksson, other new international students have also agreed that after learning about Saint Stephen’s “world-class” education, they were impressed with the school.
In recent years, Saint Stephen’s has been seeking new ways by which to promote the school as a leader in world-class education. This theme is attracting families from all over the world as the school consistently advertises its diversity within a small community.
Head of School Mrs. Jan Pullen said that many times students and their families are mainly attracted to Saint Stephen’s because “We have a lot of families who can choose to live anywhere, who have come from overseas and want to be in Florida. This, paired up with a college preparatory school, such as Saint Stephen’s, [pleases] international families, because it is the best of both worlds,” she said.
Global initiatives, such as electronic media, ad campaigns and Skype sessions, have also helped encourage international students to enroll.
Pullen said that these types of promotions are a growing “trend across independent schools all over the country.”
At the same time, leaving their families and friends behind in their home country, several students have chosen to stay with host families in the U.S. in order to experience the American way of life such as juniors from China, Lisa Yang and Sunny Jin.
One of the challenges when trying to adjust to American culture is that foreign students said they find that they must work harder in order to acclimate better.
Yang said, “The U.S. is so different from [China] and it is difficult. So, I need to improve and work hard.”
Several international students remarked at how difficult it can be to overcome the language barrier, as English is not their first language, and they must therefore work harder to master a skill or subject in school and even in everyday life.
However, many of the new foreign students relished the benefits of coming to Saint Stephen’s and America in general and said they are optimistic about their experiences so far in America.
Jin said, “My classmates are so friendly. They say hello to me and show me the way.”
Eriksson and John also added, “Cookie break is amazing.”
Pullen said that foreign students are not the only ones who benefit from the experiences they have here in America. American students can also gain an advantage in the world from the interactions with people from other countries.
Senior Elizabeth Djinis said, “It works both ways. I think [international students] teach me a lot, and sometimes they’ll have questions. It’s fun to get their perspectives.”
Djinis said that she has enjoyed learning about students from different parts of the world and has made friends she never expected to have.
“Things are put into a better perspective when you have someone [from another country]. I have friends from China and even [one from] Azerbaijan, [who] is one of my best friends, and I never would have guessed that.”
Pullen said having international students benefits everyone in the end.
“Diversity is extremely important for us and for [international students]. They get to learn about American culture, and we get to learn about whatever country they come from,” she said.