International Exchange Program Coordinator and AHS alum Judy Duffy is reporting that Arlington High School continues to be a popular choice for young people who want to spend a semester or a year studying abroad. Due to the construction at the school, the program is currently capped at 25, and Ms. Duffy had no trouble finding that many students to join us. This year’s international students come from eight countries: Brazil, Spain, Norway, Germany, France, Italy, Vietnam, and Japan. Most are here for the entire year, and three more will join us in January for the spring semester.
These young people come to experience the culture and an American education. During their time here, they live with local host families, participate in either a club or a sport, do five hours of community service each semester, and get together to experience some of the great things about our area such as a Revolution game and riding a Duck Boat. Before they leave they will also try snow tubing, go questing at Boda Borg, attend a Red Sox game, and take a Boston Harbor Ferry Cruise.
The students also interact with the greater Arlington community. Once a month they go to the Arlington Senior Center and participate in an Intergenerational Tea Talk with senior citizens. During these tea talks they have cultural conversations and play games together. Ms. Duffy reports that they are a wonderful and fun group who have adapted to AHS quickly.
The International Exchange Program is tuition-based, and there are two ways to apply to study at AHS. It is possible to apply directly if the student knows a family that lives in Arlington that is willing to host them. Most interested students work with the Educatius International Group, an organization that partners with high schools around the world. Educatius handles the application process, matches the students with host families, and assigns a coordinator to provide support while they are abroad. Each student must demonstrate a command of English via the TOEFL® or other pre-approved exam. Ms. Duffy says that the exchange students are generally quite proficient in English and have always passed the MCAS.
A certified School Counselor, Ms. Duffy manages the students’ visas (F-1 is required), handles domestic and foreign travel, and oversees their academic progress. One thing the young people need to get used to is graded homework. Periodic assignments that need to be turned in for a grade are not typical in their home countries where time is focused on exam preparation. The students are also not familiar with the practice of citing sources in their writing, District Lead Library and Media teacher Stacey Kitsis assists with this during orientation.
Several other AHS students and staff members lend a hand to make sure our visitors are successful and enjoy their time here. Members of the AHS Bridge Builders Club, advised by School Counselor Anne Benson, connect with the incoming students prior to their arrival and serve as “buddies” during the first week of school. History teacher Erica Tonachel, who has taught in Italy, assists with the field trips. Physical Education teacher Jeff Bruno helps coordinate community service, and Athletic Director John Bowler assists those young people who want to try-out and then play a sport. This year 12 students are participating in seven sports: volleyball, Girls and Boys Cross Country, Soccer, Field Hockey, Swimming, Football, and Cheerleading.
After enriching our school community with their presence, most of the students return to their home countries to complete high school or further their education. Some, however, choose to continue to study in the US. With her counseling background, Ms. Duffy is well-suited to assist the exchange students who want to receive a diploma and apply to US colleges. She adds that host families are always needed, and interested parties should contact Jodi Del Razo at Educatius International via [email protected].