Brian Chan is a Grade 12 student who was born in Toronto, grew up in Hong Kong and attended school in New York before joining White Mountain in Grade 10. “I have friends here from Zambia, Jamaica, Korea, China, Ukraine and Hungary,” he says. “The school is so welcoming that we all feel comfortable, regardless of where we come from or what our first language is.”
According to Torrey McMillan, Chair of the school’s Department of Sustainability Studies, the international mix enriches the classroom experience. “Because of our small numbers, classes are primarily discussion-based,” McMillan says. “I encourage all the students to provide their own perspective and experiences to whatever topic is being discussed.”
The world at their fingertips
Sailing around the world seems like an adventure of a lifetime. It did for Jane Ritcey, at least, when her daughter Alexandra Moore first told her about West Island College’s International Class Afloat gap year program, in which students spend a full school year sailing around the world in a tall ship.
Just finishing high school, Alexandra had sailed on a tall ship before and thought that West Island’s program would allow her to see the world. Ritcey agreed and has since seen how the experience has affected her daughter.
“She certainly has a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world,” says Ritcey. “They have seen everything from palaces to poverty.”
While Alexandra had always been independent, according to Ritcey, she’s become even more responsible and team-oriented after her time on the ship, where everybody is expected to pull their weight and watch out for others, both on land and off.
During her travels, Alexandra also decided what she wants to do with the next stage of her life. With high school behind her, Ritcey says her daughter will be attending an art college this fall.
“I think that as she travels and sees different places, her urge to draw and record it grows,” she says.
Too busy to miss home
It’s a long way from Beijing to Andover, Massachusetts. For Henry—as well as fellow students from Jamaica, Korea, Czech Republic, Spain, Canada, and elsewhere—Philips Academy made it easier.
“I was educated in Chinese public schools and at first, I struggled to accept other points of view,” he says, “but now, after three years, I really think that having different points of view, and sometimes opposing points of view, is really very beneficial for the whole student body.”
The more than 300 courses to choose from is another bonus. “In China, I did not have the option to choose which courses I was going to take but here, every student can find interesting courses that fit his or her own interests.”
For Henry, that includes majoring in the humanities and finding time to be president of the international club and part of the ambassador program that welcomes new students. “I’m too busy to miss home,” Henry says with a laugh. “This place is like home for me now. It’s really a community of its own.”
An eye-opening experience
Attending Woodstock School, in the town of Mussoorie in the state of Uttarakhand in India, can be a very eye-opening experience for students from other countries, says Principal David Laurenson. A boarding school with a strong academic focus, Woodstock encourages students to learn about world religions and cultures through classroom studies, travel and volunteer experiences, as well as local festivals.
“Woodstock has opened my eyes to the different cultures here in India and broadened my world view in a positive way,” says Shelby Thompson, a Grade 9 student. “Because the school has a large number of Indian and Nepali students, we get to learn about holidays like Holi and Diwali.”
Laurenson says the school is based on “a strong set of Christian ethics and a focus on academics,” says David Laurenson, the school’s principal. “(Going to school in India) can be a very eye-opening experience and students leave here much the better for it.”
For Christina Guenther, who is from Manitoba, teaching art at Woodstock has provided an opportunity to live within a close-knit community of teachers and students in a beautiful mountainous setting. “We love the simplicity of life here,” Guenther says.