Many countries, one school

International Program welcomes students from across seas

Have you ever wondered how international students adjust to life at Saint Viator? For the past eight years, the Reverend Mark R. Francis, CSV, International Program has been assisting students from other countries in getting accustomed to going to a school with different customs and to living in a new country.

In total, there are currently 72 international students attending Saint Viator. About 90 percent of the students come from China, and the others come from surrounding Asian countries such as South Korea. A majority of the students live with host families, but some of them stay with extended family members such as aunts and uncles. Very few have their immediate family living in the U.S. with them.

Of course, students from other countries wouldn’t ordinarily know about Saint Viator as much as local students.

“Saint Viator partners with various organizations to promote and market the school,” said International Program director Mr. Austin Bellino.

Since Mr. Bellino started here this year, he has created the Intercultural Club. This club is meant to bring various cultures together. So far, the club does not have any members who are not international students, but they are hoping that more local students will join next year.

“We are trying to push the national world calendar more and an introduction to culture so that there is more diversity next year,” said Mr. Bellino.

Going to school in the United States can be quite different from school elsewhere in the world, so international students have a lot to adjust to.

Before the school year starts, Saint Viator has an orientation to accustom students to the Catholic faith. According to Mr. Bellino, international students use prayer as a time for silent reflection but often do not recite the prayer with the rest of the students. However, they do not mind standing for the Pledge of Allegiance because they want to immerse themselves in American culture as much as possible.

The program also works with teachers to try to educate them about the students’ situations. The school tries to get international students their homework ahead of time if it will require a lot of translation. However, students are not allowed to use translators on tests.

In most Asian countries, the focus of schools are on testing instead of homework, so it is an adjustment for students to have their teachers care so much about them doing homework.

It can be difficult for international students to make friends with local-area students, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

“Students that play sports and join clubs tend to have more American friends than those who don’t,” said Mr. Bellino.

However, the IHSA does not always make it possible for international students to play sports. Since there are rules against recruiting, international students must be living with a parent or official guardian in order to participate in sports. The school is working with them so that more international students will be able to join sports teams in the future.

The program encourages international students to become as involved as possible in extracurricular activities in order to meet American students.

“Our goal is to bridge the gap between international students and American students,” said Mr. Bellino.

Saint Viator has many outlets for foreign exchange students to help connect and adjust the students to school life and a new culture.

“It is hard trying to adjust to American culture,” said Zeyuan Li, a sophomore international student. “When I first came to the US, I got into skating and music to help me adjust. Not only is it hard to adjust, but there is definitely a language barrier.”

Many foreign exchange students may already have a difficult time opening up in a new environment they have never been in before, so it is no wonder that they have a hard time adjusting to not only to the American culture but also to the language. Many international students may also have trouble with socializing due to the language barrier, so Saint Viator offers many opportunities to get connected into the community at different events. Though many contrasts exist across cultures, there is a universal passion for learning and art that can be translated without words.

“In the beginning it was hard, but after a while it got easier,” said Patrick Hong, a junior international student. “Classes in China are hard, but Saint Viator is easy because it’s new.”

It just goes to show how school can be difficult in any country. Especially with the pressures of college, high schoolers struggle across the globe with the challenge of getting good grades and succeeding in school.

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  • Photo by Madeline Dauphin

  • Photo by Madeline Dauphin

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