All Together Now
Independent schools strive to develop global citizens
International diversity is one of the main strengths of an independent school. The impact of learning in an environment with students from the other side of the world encourages students to ask, “What does this look like from another point of view?”
The Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut, reports that 23 percent of its student body represents 19 different countries. Headmaster Peter Becker says: “Being in a class with a student from Shanghai provides any kid from the United States with a bit of a wake-up call that their perspective is not the only way to see it. Those conversations happen in the classroom and at the lunch table every day.”
Becker also explained how a Gunnery education opens the door to enter into a global network of alumni and parents. This allows for alumni to have a greater field of fellow alum to connect with and potentially explore a larger field for employment.
The Whitby School in Greenwich, Connecticut, has a similar point of view. Upper School headmaster Jonathan Chein has seen many domestic students grow up in an environment with students from Asia, Europe, and South Africa. The student population represents 17 countries and 25 languages spoken.
Chein’s two children attend Whitby. “I appreciate the opportunity for my kids to experience other cultures not from textbooks or movies, but in talking to their friends who have different customs, beliefs, and holidays.”
Two Berkshire-based schools welcome international students with open-minds and open-arms. At Miss Hall’s School, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, an all-girls private and college preparatory boarding and day school for grades 9-12, international students attend a four-day orientation program along with the rest of the school. Additionally, the International Student Program provides services to students and their families who may need assistance understanding the American educational system.
Since 35 percent of the students are from countries outside the U.S., Miss Hall’s is well equip to provide the best education for all girls, regardless of their country of origin or first language. The schools website says: “Classes for international students are carefully selected so that each student’s language needs are met and her academic interests and talents are strengthened.” Clubs such as the International Student Alliance serve as a place outside the classroom for international and American students to work together to present diversity programs and other cultural events to the school community.
Bard College at Simon’s Rock is the nation’s first two-year program designed to prepare ninth and tenth graders to start college early, and it provides accelerated education for 11th and 12th graders. Due to the small class size of 11 students coupled with the added personalized attention given each student, international students there seamlessly adjust to campus life.
Currently, students from 15 countries attend. This creates a sense of diversity as seen in the year-round multicultural events hosted by the International Students Club. The International Student Orientation welcomes students and makes them feel like a “Rocker” from day one.
In Lakeville, Connecticut, Hotchkiss School headmaster Craig Bradley tells TownVibe of the opportunities offered for students to travel abroad for academics, sports, and music programs. Hotchkiss is recognized as a Round Square School, a global network of innovative schools in 50 countries on six continents that share a passion for experiential learning and character education.
Student musicians have traveled to Florence, Italy, during the summers to perform in chamber music concerts in Florence. Individual student musicians compete in international instrumental competitions around the world. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad through School Year Abroad in Italy, France, China, and Spain for a semester or a full school year.
There is great diversity at these and othere boarding schools. All the schools believe that an independent school not only helps domestic students into an international environment, but also eliminates the overall fear of “the other.” Looking forward, Gunnery’s Peter Becker believes that introducing a child to an international environment will not only shape a student into acting as a global citizen, but will provide him or her with an experience that will not define the boundaries of work possibilities here or around the world.