O’Hara ventures to China to recruit students


From left to right, William Porter, Coordinator of International Student Programs Sandi Seiler, and President Richard O’Hara visit the Great Wall of China. O’Hara and Seiler traveled to China for 11 days to strengthen current and potential Chinese relationships.

Hope Kelly, Managing Editor

President Richard O’Hara and World Languages teacher Sandi Seiler traveled to China for 10 days with the Cambridge Institute this November 2 to 13 to build and strengthen JC’s relationships with current parents and potential parents and students.

The Cambridge Institute is a company that works to bring together Chinese students and American high schools. This institute has been in a partnership with JC since JC began recruiting international students a few years ago. Since then, it has been encouraging JC to travel to China to help them find students. This year, JC finally accepted the offer. Cambridge supported JC by providing the trip, covering all their expenses during the trip.

Between O’Hara and Seiler, they traveled to eight different cities, including Beijung, Guiyang, Fuzhou, Nanning, Xiamen, Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Guangzhou. They attended recruitment fairs and met with prospective students and parents. They also met with 10 to 12 sets of parents of current students throughout their time in China. Some of the parents traveled 11 hours just to meet with O’Hara and Seiler to find out how their kids are doing at JC.

Seiler found meeting the parents of current students to be “wonderful” and “at times very emotional.”

“The parents that I met were so incredibly grateful that I had traveled such a great distance to meet them in person. Many of the parents really miss their children a lot and some of them actually broke into tears when they met me,” Seiler said.

She met with the parents “to let parents know how their children are adapting to life as JC students, and they were able to ask me questions and express their concerns.”

For Seiler this was the most important part of the visit.

“I cannot imagine the strength it takes to send a son or a daughter to the other side of the world to attend school for up to four years beginning at such a young age. I think it’s vital that we strive to let our international parents know that, despite the miles, they are part of the JC community too,” she said.

The agency provided interpreters to bridge the language barrier. O’Hara’s guide was fluent and also helped the group to communicate. During his trip, O’Hara updated on a blog called John Carroll Trip to China 2012.

O’Hara learned more about China and its culture. During his visit, he and Seiler were given the opportunity to climb the Great Wall of China. The group of Americans associated with the Cambridge Institute climbed it during their last day in Beijing.

“I never expected to get to China, much less to be able to get to go up to the Great Wall. It was invigorating. It’s like a gazillion miles long, and we only saw one tiny section of it, but it’s just there are like five zillion steps to go up it. It was my birthday and I said I don’t want to die on my birthday,” O’Hara said. “People are asking me who built it, when was it built, why was it built, but I was just in survival mode.”

“The real highlight of the trip for me was getting to visit a high school in Guiyang. It was the Guizhou Experimental High School,” O’Hara said.

While he was there, O’Hara met with the headmaster and some teachers and spoke to students about JC at an assembly. An interpreter was there to help the students understand.

O’Hara commented on how the students in China are constantly “preparing for their college entrance exam,” the Gaokoo, as there is “enormous pressure to do well.” With the larger number of students in China, students have to do well on their exam. According to O’Hara, coming to the U.S. “automatically expands their options.”

Among students, O’Hara said he found “great excitement” and “in some cases, a bit of desperation.” They were “just so eager to come.”

“When I was there, what I think I was most pleased about as far as the trip was that JC is really a player on the international stage. We are known in the places there that need to be known if we’re going to attract really, really top students. They believe we do have very high standards for admissions for international students, which is true,” O’Hara said.

Although other schools accept students with varied amounts of English proficiency, JC doesn’t because there are no existing programs designed for students who don’t speak English.

“We are in a very enviable position of being able to look at just its students for admission that have a significant level of English,” O’Hara said.

International students who apply to JC have to take the TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language, and have to score at a certain level.

As a result of the trip, O’Hara believes that JC is well-known in the places they visited, that they have broadened JC’s network of contacts, and that they were able to strengthen relationships with current parents there.

“The hope is that we will send somebody [to China] every year,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara believes this is important to “maintain the relationships with the recruitment agencies and the Chinese student’s parents.” He also thinks that sending more people will be vital to people learning about “the culture and context” the Chinese students experienced.

In the future, he would like to go on more trips. With Cambridge, “JC is looking to recruit from as many as 20 to 25 other countries,” according to O’Hara. O’Hara said that there is word JC may branch off into Brazil.

According to O’Hara, the expansion to other countries will help JC to overall be “truer to our mission and to be a community that better reflects the world.” He explained catholic means universal and that is what JC plans to become. He also said the Chinese parents wanted the “richer education” provided by a school that has multiple students from multiple countries.

“I’m not going to take up our community’s time with all sorts of presentations on the China trip, but I do think it’s important for me and for us to communicate to our parents why this was important, why the international student program is important, and I look forward to opportunities to do that,” he said.

Hope Kelly is a Managing Editor for the Patriot and jcpatriot.com.