Prior to the start of each school year, George School hosts a weeklong International Student Orientation (ISO) for international students new to George School. “Our program helps the students learn the academic life, as well as get accustomed to life in a new country,” says Marie-Laure Epaminondas, co-sponsor of the ISO program. “We have a mock day so that the students understand what a typical academic day will be like, but then we also do things like have a scavenger hunt in Newtown and meet with the Deans’ Office to understand school policies. It is the first time many of the students will be on campus and in the country.”
This year’s program will welcome thirty-three students from nine different countries including China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Each incoming student is paired with an ISO student mentor, a rising junior or senior who will follow the student all year. “Our mentors attend special trainings that help them look for signs of homesickness, among other things,” says Marie-Laure. “During first term, mentors meet regularly with the students and write reports about his or her progress. During their meetings they discuss problems that the student may be having, who to talk to if they are having a problem, and how he or she is adjusting to life in a new country.”
Student mentors apply during the spring term. Throughout the application process, they are interviewed by Marie-Laure, along with co-sponsor Lan Cheng. Teachers and dorm parents must also recommend them. This year, eight mentors were selected, four girls and four boys, and each will be paired with a few students. Training for the mentors began at the end of the last school year, but will resume on Sunday, August 27. New students arrive the following day.
While the ISO program is optional, it has been beneficial for students in the past. “Because the program helps the students with more than just academic life, it is really helpful. They have the opportunity to learn the campus and the surrounding area before all of the students return. It is very hard to be away from your family, and the extra time gives the students time to adjust,” said Marie-Laure.
The activities planned for this year’s students and mentors include a trip to Penndel Bowling Alley, a shopping trip to Target, and an excursion to Philadelphia. The program begins on August 28 and continues through September 1.