Welcome to Admission Foreword - a blog about trends in education by Gerard Gonnella '89, Director of Admission and Financial Aid.
Ni Hao from the Flight Deck
There are no better words to hear over the speaker on the plane after a successful trip visiting with family and meeting new friends than, “This is your captain, hello from the flight deck, we just reached our cruising altitude of 39,000, so sit back and enjoy the 14-plus hour trip back to the United States.” I’m physically exhausted, yet excited and renewed at the same time, knowing what a great trip I just had visiting our international parents and meeting new prospective Pioneering Thinkers. My trip to China is always a mad dash to hit as many cities as possible to meet current parents, whom I consider family, and to interview potential new students, but this year I pushed to spend a few hours to take in more of the rich culture and amazing history that China has to offer.
After landing in Beijing and interviewing students on day one it was time to meet with our Beijing Wardlaw+Hartridge International Student Parents’ Association (WHISPA). We have several WHISPA chapters started in China (Beijing, Qingdao, and Shanghai) and new ones (such as Xi’An) forming each year. Taking the time to meet with current parents is crucial to cultural understanding besides the obvious opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts about the school experience for both the parents and students who are currently attending. This year our international parents truly enjoyed our new International Student Video, which clearly demonstrates the full experience their children receive as W+H students. I always walk away with great insight on how to enrich the experience for both international and domestic students because W+H is a global educational experience; it’s no longer just an American perspective.
Learning and understanding how international families look, view, and see issues is so important in level-setting expectations for all parties. Our course, one of my favorite things to do while visiting in China is to break bread with families, not just because I love food so much but for the stories that parents share with me about their children. Mealtime is so important with so many interesting and new delicacies to try. It truly is a time of personal growth for me. Never did I expect to be flying between major Chinese cities or navigating my way around a train station to take bullet trains across an amazing and beautiful countryside. It reminds me of one of my favorite books from growing up, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee when Atticus Finch said, “Never judge a man until you walked a mile in his shoes.” What an incredible statement and so true when you can get a taste of what it must be like for our international students living here in the United States. Seeing issues and sharing experiences from many different angles or vantage points is so very important, especially in today’s climate.
Here at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School we strive daily to make not just the learning powerful but the overall experience meaningful to all. Knowing our ABC’s is just one approach we take when working with international students.
Acculturation: cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture; a merging of cultures as a result of prolonged contact.
Assimilation: the process of taking in and fully understanding information or ideas.
Belonging: be a member or part of a particular group, organization, or class. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions.
Communication: a means of connection between people or places, in particular.
Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals
I know since I started coming to China many years ago, I have always felt safe, welcomed, and included in a family setting. I’m proud, as are my colleagues are, to return the favor to our international parents by treating their children the same way while they are attending W+H. I’m honored to have these new lifelong connections in my life. I know as a school we are making a difference in so many lives. As I so often hear in meetings today, “Do you have a datapoint that can back up that statement?”
We have not only current parents attending WHISPA meetings but past parents as well. We have alumni who are seeking out former faculty and staff to catch up on life since W+H. This is a clear indicator (or datapoint) worth sharing. In our mission statement, we talk about how The Wardlaw+Hartridge School prepares students to lead and succeed in a world of global interconnection. We provide an educational atmosphere characterized by academic challenge, support for individual excellence, diversity, and a familial sense of community. This is one school that truly does live its mission statement on a daily basis and I know 460 students are better off for it.Well, I will leave it here for now as the battery life on my laptop is just about depleted and it’s time to settle into a movie before hopefully getting a little shuteye on the journey home. Wheels down in 13 hours and 55 minutes.
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