Bear Creek International Student Program

  • Student Blog
Annemarie Mullet

At least once or twice in the average American’s life, he or she has probably heard the phrase, “America is a melting pot.” Of course, this isn’t a phrase referring to global warming, but is in fact referring to the melting pot of cultures that can be found in the United States, due to mass migration in America.

map of where your family is from

Grade 9 students share where their family is from

Bear Creek, though many students may not realize, contributes to this so-called ‘melting pot’ of races and cultures in America. At The Bear Creek School, we have a thriving international program. On the website, on the International Student Program page, the site states, “We welcome international student applications from all parts of the world.” So, anyone is welcome to apply, as long as he or she follows the guidelines the school provides. But, I shan’t focus on the how or what of the international program, but more of the experience.

Every grade has a different number of students, from different countries, and of different genders. Some of the students live with parents and others with host families. As I am not an international student, I took it upon myself to talk to some of the international students about their experiences of going to school in a foreign country. Many of their answers surprised me, and I loved seeing the delight on their faces when asked to share about their backgrounds.

For some international students, their first day of school is one of the most emotional days of their lives. Many of them have only been living in the U.S. for a few months, some even less. For Rita Luk, a junior at Bear Creek from Hong Kong, “it felt like I have no friends since I know no one in the country besides my family.” I think this stands for many of the international students, since many others made comments along this same line. Alissa Wang, a sophomore from Guangzhou, claims that when she first went to school in the U.S. in fourth grade she was terrified, feeling overwhelmed.

International Club

The first day and the natural feeling of isolation is tied to what most of the international students agree to be the hardest cultural change: the language and lifestyle. Rita shared that in her elementary and middle school in Hong Kong, basic English was a required language, but it wasn’t conversational skills and was more grammar based. For Alissa, the lifestyle was the harder change, since school was different. “In China, all stuff was given to you and you would just have to take notes. But in the U.S., you have more freedom to communicate with the teachers and [work] requires more critical thinking.” Both ladies noted that learning was the hardest cultural change, whether due to a language or lifestyle difference.

Something that I came upon while talking with Rita specifically was the aspect of similarities between the culture of their country and Bear Creek culture. Rita shared two similarities with me that I found fascinating. The first one was the aspect of uniforms. Most public schools in the U.S. don’t have uniforms. But, in Hong Kong, just like Bear Creek, Rita said that most schools had a uniform, generally a “Chinese style dress.” Another connection she made was something that I wasn’t aware of. In Hong Kong “there is a big test, like the SAT or ACT that gets people to university, but you can only take it once and it contains 5-7 subjects, and all high school years lead up to it.” In the U.S., the SAT and ACT are prominent tests, because colleges use them to sort applications. I found it interesting that this extends to Hong Kong as well.

I then moved towards more personal questions that I assumed would differ from student to student. I was surprised when there was a similar theme for both the ladies of the more opinion-based questions. The first one I asked was what the student's favorite part of living here was. Alissa said she appreciated the laid-back access she had to get help from the teachers at Bear Creek, and Rita said she appreciated how it’s more relaxing than the school she attended at Hong Kong. For those who have attended, have a student at, or are attending Bear Creek, they know that the curriculum is not easy, and the workload is not light. I find myself having to balance out work and use my resources diligently. Rita and Alissa’s answers definitely give me an insight into the hard schooling in China.

Of course, since there are always downsides, I asked what the student's least favorite part of living in the U.S. was. Their answers were similar for this question as well. Alissa states, “There are so little entertainers, because in China, I can go to five or six small malls by walking or taking the subway and we have food everywhere, but in the U.S. you have to get up and drive, and the food here is bad, honestly.” Rita was in the same boat as well, saying the she misses Hong Kong meals all the time and wishes that there were better restaurants in the U.S.

Alissa W shooting at varsity girls game

Alissa W. shooting at a recent varsity girls game

Out of curiosity, I also asked the students what one hobby or activity was that they picked up in the U.S. and didn’t do in their home country. Alissa now plays basketball for Bear Creek, and says that she doesn’t have time to exercise in Guangzhou and really enjoys the sport. Rita joined the Bear Creek tennis team and states that she didn’t ever exercise in Hong Kong because studying was above that.

It was intriguing to get to know the international students and to get a glimpse into their lives. I would encourage everyone to try and speak to an international student and hear what they have to say. We all could learn a fact, similarity, or crazy idea from hearing someone else’s story.