The International Student Experience at Severn School
By Lorenzo Hu '21
Often times, people confuse international students with exchange students. In some ways, they are similar, but the difference is also noticeable. Exchange students, like the ones Severn hosts every year from Spain and France, are students involved in an exchange program established between two schools. The students do not pay any tuition to the school they are travelling to. A fun fact to know is that an exchange program does not necessarily involve international travel. Exchange students usually visit another school for a relatively short period of time – in Severn’s case about ten to twelve days. International students, on the other hand, become full-time students at their “host” schools. International students typically pay tuition directly to the school they are attending, and are treated as any other local students. In addition, international students hold F1 visas, while exchange students hold J1 visas.
There are five of us international students at Severn for now: two juniors, Sherry (Jiayue Li) and me (Hongyu Hu, aka Lorenzo); two sophomores, Casey (Yaopeng He) and Candy (Jiahui Huang); lastly one freshman, Christopher (Rong Fan). All five of us come from China; in fact, we come from the same school, Hangzhou Entel Foreign Language School (referred to as Entel), located in Hangzhou, China.
Severn School, for sure, differs from Entel. “I think the biggest difference between Severn and my school in China is the Honor Code,” says Christopher (Rong) Fan. Severn’s required written signature, representing the Honor Code, is very unusual compared to most Chinese schools. Chinese students are not clearly informed about the consequence of cheating, but we all understand that cheating will be severely punished. In addition, the Honor Code covers not only exams, but also homework. “Of course, we wouldn’t cheat on exams, but we did do each other’s homework sometimes,” explains Christopher. It was very surprising to me that the homework is counted as a large section of the grade. In China, most schools provide a final grade for students (for the entire school year) consisting of three parts: midterm, finals, and homework. However, the homework section only takes up five percent of the total grade, and was considered a class participation grade at Entel. Therefore, unless the student does not do homework at all or the teacher seriously dislikes the student, the five percent is guaranteed. The pros and cons of the Chinese way is obvious: less work for the teachers, but more pressure on the students because there is no chance to make up any errors you make on the exams.”
To Casey (Yaopeng) He, the biggest difference between Severn and Entel is the athletics: “In Entel, we did not have after school sports, but PE classes. And the PE classes were often taken away by the teachers of the ‘major subjects,’” referring to Chinese, Math, English, and Science in China. Some teachers make up excuses for taking the PE class to teach their own class; for instance, the PE teacher is sick. The sick PE teacher recently became a meme on the Chinese social media.
In conclusion, the five of us are learning about the US and American culture, if you are interested in us and the Chinese culture, please feel free to express your opinion to The Anchor!