Collegiate families embrace the opportunity to host an international student
Whether they came to the United States for work or for their studies, one thing is certain – Norfolk Collegiate has a thriving international program. Collegiate has always has international students, yet this year we welcomed more than 12 international students in the Upper School, as well as several families living stateside for work.
“The diversity of the Norfolk Collegiate student body is a benefit to the entire community,” said Director of Enrollment Nelda Nutter. “With approximately 20 international students in grades nine through 12, students, faculty and staff members have the opportunity to learn about different cultures, perspectives and traditions in the comfort of their hometown.”
If you’ve ever considered learning about another culture, introducing a student to American life or even building friendships abroad, hosting an international student is just one of the ways in which our Oaks can contribute to the diversity of our school.
Joseph Beck and Susan Meredith opened their home to sophomore Johannes Tismer this year. From Germany, Johannes wanted to take a year and study in America to have a better understanding of the language and culture. Though only here for a year, it wasn’t the first opportunity that the Becks had with opening their home to an international student.
Meredith’s family became involved with the program through the urging of her three children, who had befriended other international students at school. “I saw what a great opportunity it was to open our home to a student,” said Meredith. “Not only do you get to learn about their home or country, but you also get to form a relationship – that’s really the special thing.”
First-time hosts Monroe and Kristen Lentz along with their daughter Maryliz, a sophomore, welcomed junior “Doris” Xu into their home this year. “We really debated, pondered and worked it over,” said Monroe Lentz about the decision. “We had to have family buy in, meaning every person had to be all in. It’s so funny to hear them upstairs talking and laughing now.”
The Lentzes became involved because they had always wondered what it would be like to have another child in their home. “We truly didn’t know what to expect, but Doris is a part of our family 100 percent now.”
Tim and Anne Lockhart also opened their home to sophomore “Clara” Deng this year. The Lockharts have a daughter, Meg, in seventh grade.
“Meg’s an only child, and we always wanted her to experience what it would be like to have a sibling, especially someone from China, seeing as we adopted her from China,” said Tim Lockhart. “We thought it would be a good opportunity.”
As it turns out, Clara has proven to be an excellent role model for Meg. “Clara is a very fine young woman and a great student,” said Lockhart. “She and our daughter Meg have become good friends. Clara has been like a big sister.”
Are you considering hosting a student?
Opportunities exist for families to open their homes to international students. Some come and study for a semester, while others may stay for one to four years. Families initially sign on for a one-year commitment. At the end of that period, they and the student can decide whether to renew their contract and continue the arrangement the following year. Most host families receive a living allowance from the student’s placement agency, and the student’s school costs are paid by their agencies.
Each family also agreed that while it is a great opportunity, it’s also important to remember that it’s a family decision. “If you have children, they have to be committed to it,” said Lockhart.
Communication and expectation setting are also important. “The best thing we were told was to be up front,” said Lentz. “For example, we told Doris, ‘This is your room. We will not come into your room. This is our room. You will not come into our room.’ We set up those expectations up front.”
Meredith agreed. It’s important to “set up the space for them and communicate if they’re not doing what you expect them, just as your own child,” said Meredith. “But you have to allow them to be who they are.”
Most importantly, it takes time for everyone to come together. “We explained to our daughter that this isn’t going to be like an instant best friend and instant daughter,” said Lockhart. “We gave Clara a lot of time and a lot of space. She laughs and jokes around now. She’s much more comfortable. The first few weeks, she was a very proper guest, and now she’s more like an American teenager.”
“I’m so glad Collegiate has this program,” he continued. “I think it’s a great thing that Collegiate does this. It’s another example of what a fine, well-rounded school Collegiate is.”
Interested in learning more?
Families interested in learning more about opening their homes to an international student are encouraged to learn more about becoming a host at several upcoming information sessions or by clicking here. They will be held on:
- April 15 at 8:15 a.m. in the administrative conference room, Middle and Upper School
- April 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the administrative conference room, Middle and Upper School
- April 30 at 2 p.m. in the Will King Board Room, Meredith Center for the Arts
- May 1 at 2 p.m. in the conference room at the Lower School