Towards the end of every academic year, international students the school has hosted over the course of the school year visit the CVU School Board. This year, students from Austria, Denmark, Italy, Germany, and Sweden talked about the many differences between their schools and CVU, and were unanimous in their praise of the CVU experience. They noted they felt like part of a family, rather than students in a school, and shared that their involvement in classes, athletics, clubs, and community activities quickly made them feel comfortable and connected. As is typical at this end-of-year visit, the students focused on the mixed emotions they were feeling. Clearly, they were looking forward to seeing their families and friends at home, but they also knew they would miss the many important people who made their experiences at CVU, and in Vermont, so memorable.
CVU has been welcoming at least one foreign exchange student annually (typically around 10 these past few years) for more than 20 years. The school and community-at-large embrace these students from the moment they arrive. The school features international students’ photos and short bios in the September edition of the parent newsletter, as does the school paper. Members of the school community encourage all those who recognize these students to engage with them and welcome them to CVU and Vermont. The faculty looks forward to having these students in their classes and makes accommodations, especially early on, to let the students adjust to their new home and language. The emphasis is on encouraging these visiting students to try new things, and the American students support them on their teams and clubs, as well as include them in high school life.
The benefits of the exchange, however, go in both directions. The international presence helps CVU students understand different languages and cultures, as the visiting students are encouraged to share as much about their home country as possible. One exchange student noted that the student inquiries about life in his home country were so numerous that he found himself having to do a little research of his own to be sure he provided accurate answers. These types of interactions give CVU students opportunities to gain new perspectives on their own country in relation to other parts of the world and to begin to understand how tightly connected the peoples of the world are to each other. The internet, and its various forms of social media, have made it easier for CVU students and their international friends to stay connected long after the school year is over. It is not uncommon for CVU students to travel abroad to visit an international student they befriended in school.
This year’s School Board visit with our international students was made even more special by a student presentation of the Education First (EF) High School Exchange Year Global Education Excellence Award to CVU Principal Jeff Evans and School Board Chair Susan Grasso, on behalf of CVU. According to Jan Bedard, local coordinator of the EF High School Exchange Year program, this award is presented annually to high schools that demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to international understanding and global awareness. Our school was one of a select group of high schools/districts recognized across the United States for the 2013-14 school year. In addition to the plaque, CVU was chosen as one of five “Superior Schools” nationwide to receive a $100 scholarship payable to a senior who best represents EF’s dedication to the mission of opening the world through education.
“Champlain Valley has shown an outstanding commitment to offering a global education,” said Dan Sodervall, President of EF High School Exchange Year. “By welcoming exchange students into the classrooms, CVU has created new and unique learning opportunities not just for the exchange students, but for the American students and faculty as well.”
The international exchange student program is possible, in large part, because of families in the community who generously volunteer to host visiting students. To learn more about getting involved with high school exchange at CVU, please contact the CVU main office at (802) 482-7100 to receive contact information of participating global exchange programs.