Ball, Seiler expand International Students Program

Ball, Seiler expand International Students Program

Grace Kim

Current Chinese exchange students Jinyu “Maggie” Hunag, Yi Yang, and Xiaozhou “William” Du talk with Chinese teacher Lei Wei and Coordinator of International Student Program Sandi Seiler about their opportunities at JC. Next year, more international students will join them as the International Students Program expands its boundaries.

Grace Kim, Online Chief

The International Students Program is evolving.  Beginning with baby steps in Korea, then China, it is now opening up to the rest of the world.

“I felt when I came here in July, we had international students, but there wasn’t really a program…There’s an agency that handles the students coming from China.  They come through a company called the Cambridge Institute out of Boston.  We have told them to look for students from other parts of the world as well.  We want students from all over the world.  I think it makes us a better school,” Principal Madelyn Ball said.

“[The International Students Program] has changed so tremendously this year because Mrs. Seiler has done a wonderful job creating a great program for our international students.  For example, we really have a program now in terms of [taking] their Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score that they come in with . . . we have a minimum that they have to score in order to come in . . . and [requiring them to] reach a certain TOEFFL score before they graduate,” Ball said.

According to Coordinator of International Student Programs Sandi Seiler, the International Students Program replaces foreign language classes with English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which is a part of the program.  ESL will work as a set time for the students to receive tutoring, make up tests, work on school or homework, or just receive help from Seiler.

“Beginning [this] fall, it [ESL] will be a one credit foreign language course for students that have not achieved an 80 on the TOEFL exam.  In terms of applying to school, we have it set up so that depending on which year level their score has to be higher, but our hope is that by the end of their sophomore year, they will test out of my class by getting an 80,” Seiler said.

According to Seiler, an 80 percent is the “exit score” because it is the minimum that most colleges and universities require for entrance.

“The hope is that if they come in and work hard for one or two years at the junior level, they don’t need my course anymore, they’re in pretty good shape in terms of applying for colleges here in the U.S . . . and they’re at the level where they’ll able to cope with more writing intensive courses such as honors or AP [Advanced Placement courses],” Seiler said.

Another aspect of the program is the availability and participation of host families.

“[Seiler] has done a wonderful job working with host families.  We had our first host family get together a couple weeks ago so everyone could get together and talk and see if anyone was having any problems.  The new host families are coming here on May 14.  [We will have] host family orientation here.  On that night, we tell the host families what to expect, and we then Skype the students in China and their families so everyone can meet face to face,” Ball said.

“A lot of host families are incoming families . . . and the reason for that is that we have quite a few freshman international students coming in so the parents think that it’s best to have an exchange student at the same grade level as their student,” Seiler said.

Host families find out about the program in several ways.  Seiler posts an announcement in the JC Parent E-Update, posts announcements on the message boards of some Bel Air parishes, talks with teachers at St. Margaret’s School about the program, and makes an announcement about it during the incoming freshman assembly.  Also, news of the program spreads through “word of mouth.”

According to Ball, Seiler also handles all of the interviews with international prospective students.

“I credit Mrs. Seiler with doing a phenomenal job this year with the international students. She’s a very compassionate person and very detail oriented, which we need with this.  Host families need to be cleared through the Archdiocese, fingerprinted, [and undergo a] training process about child abuse. They even have to have their driving records checked.  It’s just like anybody who wants to work in a Catholic school.  It takes a lot of time and effort to do that,” Ball said.

As for goals for the International Students Program, Ball has yet to solidify the official mission statement with President Richard O’Hara, but there are a few general ideas that the administration is aiming for.

“Definitely to branch out . . . [it’s] critically important for us as a school with a global perspective,” Ball said.  According to Ball, there is no set goal for a desired amount of international students.  Right now, the program is just focusing on how many host families are available to be matched up with as many international students as possible.

“At this point, what really controls the numbers [of international students] is housing.  We only have so many host families and so many spaces in the dorms.  That’s what really limits [the program],” Ball said.

According to Ball, people involved with the program are “putting together a packet of things that will explain what life will be like in the dorm in terms of outings, going places, doing community service . . . and the responsibility of the dorm parents.”

“There’s just an awful lot to go into this, rules as to how to sign in and out, and if you’re going somewhere . . . The Archdiocese must see [the information packet], so within a month it will be sent to them,” Ball said.

In regards to the current status of the program, according to Ball and Seiler, they are still in the process of finalizing host family details and waiting to hear back from students regarding their acceptances.

“As it is right now, we have host families already set up for everybody who does not plan to live in the dorm,” Ball said.

Grace Kim is the Online Chief of The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.