St. Stephen’s officially kicked off the new school year on August 21, when our new international boarding students moved onto campus. Thirty-five burgeoning Spartans participated in the school’s four-day Venture Program, which helps ensure new international boarders get settled into their dorm rooms and oriented to campus life well before classes begin.
The Venture Program is run by the school’s International Program Office, a six-person team with a collective fluency in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese, and Italian. Together, they have more than 150 years of experience supporting international students.
Led by the seemingly inexhaustible Sarah Todd, the team oversees a wealth of activities and programs designed to broaden the global perspective of the school community while ensuring international students thrive in their academic, extracurricular and social activities. Todd and her team are supported in their efforts by the full St. Stephen’s community, which continually seeks new ways to advance our shared vision for a diverse, inclusive and equitable school.
“St. Stephen’s works to admit students who have the capacity to become joiners in all areas of campus life,” Todd explained. “Our job is to create the conditions and provide the support needed to enable them to do that. Our Venture Program is the first step.”
Returning boarding students are another great resource for new international students. Many, who participated in the Venture Program themselves, serve as program proctors. In addition to providing a friendly face in the dorms, they help new students settle into their rooms and find their way around campus. They also help international students navigate confusing cultural differences — from electrical adaptors and washing machines to American slang.
“Many international students are afraid they will say or do something wrong, so they stay quiet,” explained proctor Jack Li, a senior from Shanghai, China, who went through Venture as an eighth grader. “I let them know everything is going to be fine and that it is OK to ask for help.
“For many students, this is their first time living away from home, so they may feel a little lost,” Li added.
Fer Hurtado, an 11th grade student from Monterrey, Mexico, remembers that feeling. “I was sad to leave home and was having doubts about living so far away,” she said. “Fortunately, St. Stephen’s is a really inclusive community, and everyone is open-minded. With time, you become more confident.”
Hurtado signed up to be a Venture proctor this year, in part, to help her own sister, a new eighth grade boarder, adjust to living on campus. “Like I was at first, she is scared of change,” Hurtado explained. “So for her, I am a little piece of home.”