There are many hats worn by the administrator of a private high school. Not only do you have to help prepare your students for the next step in their lives, but you have to make your school a welcoming and enticing place for the next generation of students, all while meeting a budget. It is a balancing act, but it can be done- especially because the success of former and current students is the best advertisement for your school.
But with all the day-to-day considerations, it can be easy to diminish the role that international students can play. After all, recruiting and paperwork take time and money, two things with finite supplies. However, it is clear why many schools are competing for the increasing number of foreign nationals looking to study in America: they bring enormous benefits to any school. Next week, we’ll look at why these brave and intrepid teenagers are a boost to a school’s rankings in a very tangible way; in this article, however, we’ll talk about another, more subtle benefit: the positive influence they can have on American students.
Every new step in a person’s life should, in theory, expand their horizons. When you are young, you only know your family. Then you start school and make friends, and get to know more people- but in your early years, it tends to be the same people. As your circle expands, one of two things may happen: your knowledge of the incredible diversity of the human race is broadened- not just in the standard terms, but diversity of thought, belief, even musical taste; alternatively, you may confirm that your inner circle is the best one there is, hands down.
In theory, high school should help with the former, but we all know that isn’t always the case. Too often we bring with us the same prejudices (however mild) and beliefs (however positive). If there is one international student in a class, it helps to break some of that armor. If there are many, it makes it clear just how insulated a student might be, and how diverse and exciting the outside world is. This is why exchanges go both ways. This can’t help, but be a good thing.
And not just in and of itself, either. It is obvious that, regardless of whether you believe it is a new thing or a continuation of existing trends, economic globalization is the driving force in our world. That’s one of the major reasons why international students want to come to your school: to learn global language and to become comfortable as an international citizen. Not every one of your students may be able to study abroad, but you can bring the mountain to them by opening your doors to foreign students.
Prep for college and for life
Going to college entails more than just adjusting to an increase in personal freedom. It also means interacting with a larger and more diverse student body. For students who have been insulated, at a public or private school, this can be daunting, and navigating new social structures can have a deleterious effect on scholastic achievement. But if your students are already familiar with this experience, they are more ready than most to go to college and to achieve.
This isn’t just feeling good about diversity for the sake of itself, even though that is a good thing. As we said, the world is more connected than ever. Everyone knows that. A high-achiever can shuttle between offices in New York, Shanghai, and Dubai. She can have a conference call with Singapore and spend more time talking to her counterparts a world away than to people in the next office over. No time is too early to become a citizen comfortable in the world, and that starts with a global classroom.
You want students to come to your school, and you want those students to succeed. More than ever, success comes from flexibility, adaptability, and global empathy. If you can show that your students are learning these skills from the moment they enter your doors, it all but guarantees the next wave will come, eager to explore the globe within the open halls of your school.
The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.