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Jacob Guertin “Howls” with Shion H. ‘24 about the International Student Experience
Jacob Guertin, Associate Director of Admissions

In the third episode of The Howl, Rectory's new student podcast, hosted by Jacob Guertin, Associate Director of Admissions, Mr. Guertin discusses the international student experience with Shion. H. ‘24.

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6,703. That’s roughly the number of miles from Tokyo to Rectory School, a daunting distance when you think about how long it would take to get back to your family. This is exactly the distance traveled by our guest this month on The Howl, ninth-grader Shion H. ‘24, who joined the Rectory community in the seventh grade. Since then, Shion has embraced boarding school life with its ups and downs and all of the challenges of being so far from home. Shion’s story exemplifies the obstacles that students who speak English as a second language must face and shows how one may overcome them with hard work and perseverance. Shion came to Rectory to mature as a person and improve his skills in English, and he has accomplished exactly that.

Shion admits that his first year was difficult. “It was a really tough situation,” he said. “I was really unable to communicate.” This posed some obvious problems—on dorm, in the classroom, and even at the dinner table. It was like being thrown out of the nest and learning to fly on the way down. The inability to converse easily with others was especially hard for Shion, as he is such a people person. “I love to communicate. It’s fun! But I became sad because it was really hard to do,” he said. Shion credits a few former students for helping make his transition easier. Two others in his dorm spoke Japanese, and that was one of his safety nets. “Some familiarity made me feel more comfortable because I did not always have my mom to go to,” he said. One of the special things about boarding school is finding friendships that grow into some of the strongest bonds you’ll ever know. 

Academically, much of Shion’s growth can be attributed to a variety of programs. He saw the most growth in the Individualized Instruction Program, known as IIP. His one-on-one class was focused on English, which is not always the case for students enrolled in the program. He would meet with his Learning Specialist almost every day of the week, and she helped him develop his language skills. “Ms. DiIorio was the best,” he said. “I would get bored, so she created activities that made it more fun; I forgot I was learning.” In addition to his core English class, Shion took a language arts class that supported public speaking and vocabulary. Typically, students can choose Spanish or computer science to fulfill their world language requirements. Still, for international students like Shion, it’s a great idea to focus on mastering English as a second language in a language arts class before learning another new language. This way, he could participate in English class—reading the same novels and engaging in the same discussions as his peers—but he also had IIP and language arts to support his work in English and help him become more comfortable. 

Now, fast forward to the spring term of his eighth-grade year. Summer is in sight, the sun is out, and the flowers are in bloom. Shion did not have to apply for leadership positions, but he was so confident that he ran for dorm proctor and student council. As perhaps his proudest moment and the perfect proof of his growth in English, Shion strode confidently up to the podium during morning assembly and spoke in front of the entire school. “I never would have thought I would be able to do something like this when I came here,” he said. Thanks to the persistence of his teachers—especially Ms. Euglow, his language arts instructor—along with those dorm mates who showed him the way, Shion proved to everyone that he was no longer the lonely, speechless student he was when he started. He had excelled all the way to the top—elected to the student council and selected as a proctor. This is remarkable, considering how he struggled at the start. 

Shion is an inspiration, for sure. It is no small thing to overcome such obstacles at such a young age. But in my experience, he is not the only one. Children are extremely adaptable and social beings who can thrive in this environment, even if they come from far away. I hope other international students hear Shion’s story and feel more comfortable and confident with all the possibilities that await them at boarding school. 

To listen to this and other episodes of The Howl, click here. You can also watch a video version of the podcast on our YouTube channel by clicking here. And while you're there, why not like and subscribe? Also, if you would like to arrange a visit, please call 860-928-1328 or email admissions@upsbeijing.net.

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