INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ADD NEW FLAVOR TO JPII
February 7, 2020
by Andy Telli
As the students enjoyed a lunch menu filled with Chinese food, the Chinese students explained a variety of traditions that surround the celebration of the New Year.
It was a glimpse of the cultural exchange that happens everyday in classrooms and club meetings, in the cafeteria and on the practice fields.
“This gives us the opportunity to infuse our student body with international students,” Michelle Barber, dean of admissions and advancement at JPII, said of the school’s international scholars program. “And we’re able to provide them with a faith-based education in a college-prep environment.”
In the past, JPII has hosted students from Germany, Vietnam, Korea and China. This year, JPII has nine students from China, who found the school through the firm Cambridge Network, which places international students in American high schools throughout the country.
For the families of all nine Chinese students at JPII this year, they decided to send their children to a high school halfway across the globe with an eye to the future: getting into a top American college or university.
“I was going to go to college here,” said Darren Liu, who is in his third year at JPII. “My dad thought it’s better to go to high school here” so he could get use to American schools and culture.
“Education in the U.S. is generally more well-rounded than in China. That helps them land a job,” said Diandian Liu, Cambridge’s student development manager who works with the JPII students. “There is a big demand for the international education market in China.”
Gloria Feng, in her third year at JPII, prefers the American style education. “There’s less busy work,” she said. “It challenges you in all kinds of ways.
“JPII has really good academics,” she said. “The teachers are really good. They will make you really think in a creative way. You get to know a lot of knowledge beyond what the textbook provides you.”
One obvious difference between the two educational systems is the length of the school day. In her Chinese middle school, Feng was in school from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and spent time at night doing homework.
“Chinese students always think studying in America is easier than in China, but it’s not,” said Chris Yang, who is in his first year at JPII.
Part of the struggle is that the classes are taught in English, and students are still learning the language when they first arrive. Cambridge provides the students extra help with the language. Diandian Liu also serves as an English as a Second Language teacher for the Chinese students in their first year.
And JPII’s teachers try to help all the exchange students feel comfortable in their classes, Liu said. “They are very accommodating here.”
Part of Liu’s job is helping the students bridge the cultural gap between China and the United States. It’s something she has lots of personal experience with.
Liu herself was an exchange student at Montclair State University in New Jersey as an undergraduate, and spent a year teaching Chinese language and culture at Logan County High School in Kentucky while a graduate student.
While in graduate school in China, she met her husband, Taylor Holmes, a 2010 graduate of JPII who works for a medical equipment company with several factories in Asia. They are in the midst of moving to Hendersonville, Liu said.
“I’ve been through a quite similar experience” as her students, Liu said. “Having an international family myself, I know the cultural differences, the language differences sometimes. … At the end of the day, we’re all the same. We want to do good things.”
All the international students live with American host families during their time at JPII.
“We couldn’t do this without the host families who step up every year and take these kids into their homes and … their family,” Barber said.
“The impact the host families have on these international scholars is life changing,” she said. “It creates some beautiful long-term relationships.”
Cambridge Network conducts background checks and home visits with families interested in hosting an international student, Liu said. She also serves as the local support system for the host families, answering questions that arise through the year.
The host families receive a stipend to offset some of the cost of hosting a student. “But at the same time we want to make sure that’s not their goal,” Liu said. “We want to make sure our students are put in a good home.”
For more information about serving as a host family, contact JPII at 615-822-2375.