An International Affair

“My first ever trip to ‘Target’ was very exciting,” writes Canadian Sara Ho ’08 about her first week and a half at Andover. Sara, you may have found Target exciting, but in terms of what America has to offer, you have not hit the bull’s-eye yet. Not everyone is particularly enthralled by the diversity that people like Ho bring to our school. Some would prefer better food, a smaller tuition, or nicer dormitories, and have expressed it with comments varying from“I think we should spend less money on financial aid” to the incredibly dyspeptic and malicious, “Oh, well, they only let [So-and-So] in because he’s from [Insert-Foreign-Country-Here].” Trying to set the record, as well as some xenophobes, straight, I contacted some new international students after their first week and a half here, asking them about their experiences at Andover. What I found was truly remarkable. International students represent a group of people that steer us away from the course of an elite, insular mindset and toward the shores of sundry intellectual discourse. The following is a short walk, but it shows how much we can learn by borrowing their shoes for some perambulation. Q: What is the most memorable experience you have had here so far? Romanian Andrei Manda ’07 replied, “The most memorable experience I’ve had here so far took place undoubtedly the last Wednesday, at the All-School Meeting, when I got to bear the Romanian flag. The feeling I felt while passing through a crowd of 1000+ cheering people is indescribable. That’s when I really felt unique and welcomed.” Henry Yin ’07 from Beijing responded, “The most memorable experience would be making friends. I made so many friends from different countries, with diverse cultures, and learned a lot from them. I had dinner with Koreans, watching them speak Korean although I couldn’t understand a word; I played soccer with Indians, who were not as bad as I thought they were; I hung out with French, German, Spanish and Italians and learned more about European culture; I found many people whose parents were Chinese, and had a great time speaking Chinese with them. Last but not least, I made friends with American boys and girls, who were kind and hospitable to a boy from afar, making him feel that he was a strong part of the Andover community, and who yearned to know more about the Chinese culture and language. “ Henry expresses more eloquently than I ever could the beauty of diversity in the Andover community. Q: How has the adjustment been? Did you/do you feel homesick, relieved, or anxious? Miguel Fernandes-Galiano ’05, the PG from Spain who spoke at the first All-School, answered, “It is impossible not to feel homesick when you know you are not seeing your family or friends in a year, but you get used to that, and people here make you forget it all the time.” It is an incredibly brave feat to leave everything behind and embark upon a journey for a new world with strange smells, strange people, and a different language. Ho told me, “You’re so busy with classes and extra-curriculars that it’s hard to find time to be homesick. I’m still adjusting to the little things. I start digging through my coins looking for a loonie (a Canadian one dollar coin) and then realize that they have one dollar bills here.” Not only do we have youth from every quarter at Andover, but youth from every currency. Q: How do you find Americans-friendly, hostile, helpful, overweight? Is there a big difference between here and Canada? Manda, who has travelled from Romania to America annually since 1999, stated, “I have always thought that the Americans are very friendly, sociable and very helpful, and my thoughts were confirmed. Indeed, the Americans are just as I thought they would be, or even surpass my expectations. I find it funny you would ask if I find the Americans overweight. The answer is no, that’s a stereotype that all the Europeans have. You can find a lot of fat people all over Europe, and that’s a fact.” Ho responded, “Everyone that I’ve met so far has been really friendly. Most people don’t know a lot about Vancouver, and its fun to be able to tell people about home. It’s also funny to hear what some people think Canada is like. The language here is a lot different from Vancouver. It’s still English, but I’m not used to New England slang. At home, ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’ aren’t good things.” Q: What do you think about classes here, compared to your old school? Yin answered, “I think that the class size is much [smaller] than my old school or any Chinese school. Normal Chinese schools would have around 50 students or even more in a class, but a class here only has around 10. Maybe due to that reason, students participate much more actively in class. Most students are thus confident to speak and express their opinions, while a lot of students in China are shy to speak in class. However, in the science and math classes, I found that Americans were not as good as Chinese at calculating and thinking mathematically. Chinese students were taught to calculate (using their own heads) very quickly when they were small kids, and thus are very quick in math and science. Whereas the students here even have to use the calculator to calculate two raised to the fifth!” (For those Americans like me, left stranded by Henry’s supercomputer brain, it is 32.) Q: Why did you decide to come to PA? Has it met your expectations? Fernandez-Galiano told me, “I had heard it was a great school, and I was also thinking in taking a year