Pressing Questions: How Do You Support International Students?

Fall 2019

Alex Brosowsky, now in his sixth year as head of school at The Quaker School at Horsham (PA), recently asked several heads of school how they support international students.

Imagine you are 14 years old, far from your parents and moving into a dormitory or homestay in a strange country where everything feels new. The foods you eat, the language you hear, the weather, the way students learn—it is all different from the people and places you have known your entire life.   
 
This is the situation our international students are stepping into, some of them arriving in the United States for the first time. Whether they are from Ghana, China, Russia, or Mexico, international students need a different type of TLC to help them adjust to life as a student in the United States. From homesickness to illness to visa issues to learning the everyday life of a dorm or homestay, schools are looking for ways to support their international students so they can enhance and thrive in our school communities. Recently, I received Oakwood Friends School’s (NY) newsletter and was inspired by a story about one of my former international students. Reading about her success, I decided to ask fellow heads of school how they support international students.
 
“Our faculty and staff focus on communication, care, and community. Regular face-to-face conversations with families via WeChat and Skype help support students emotionally while providing parents a glimpse into our day-to-day routine. Parents want to know about academics, but they also express more universal concerns felt when a child is far from home: ‘Are they eating enough?’ ‘Did they buy a toothbrush yet?’ ‘Do you ever see them laugh?’ These conversations and opportunities help sustain an environment in which students feel vested, valued, and supported.”  
—Chad Cianfrani, Head of School, Oakwood Friends School (NY)

“Before students’ arrival in August, we arrange for extensive orientation support for international boarders. We provide summer and full-year ESL classes. Our international students also have a trusted adult adviser who serves as their advocate acting in loco parentis. Their parents know there is an adult here who cares for their child, motivating them to improve, to engage in our school community, and to grow. Our college guidance team has even translated the college process timeline into Mandarin and sent a representative to China to meet with families.”
Kevin Rea, President, Wyoming Seminary (PA)
Want to weigh in on a pressing question? Let us know at ismag@nais.org.