By Isabel Metha '20
The International Student Program, better known as ISP, is thriving at GFS. Starting with only four students in the 2014-15 academic year, ISP more than doubled in size the following year and has been hosting a steady 12-13 students since then. This year, we have 13 students living with 11 homestay families who are providing the supportive environment the students need to immerse themselves in the values, curriculum, and spirit of GFS.
ISP is always looking for prospective host families, both directly and indirectly affiliated with GFS. Direct families would include current families, families of graduates, past and present faculty, and alumni, while indirect families would be friends and neighbors of those who are directly affiliated with GFS. (Families who are interested in hosting a student should contact Penka Slavova and stay posted for an information session taking place this March.)
ISP, though, does more than just pair families with students; they serve as the epicenter between GFS, biological families, and host families. Providing support to host families and students, ISP serves as the central liaison between all moving pieces of the puzzle. Joy Kushner, Director of ISP and Penka Slavova, the Coordinator of International Student Life, work together to nurture the social and emotional welfare of the international students. ISP works closely with the College Advisory Office to facilitate the college application process as smoothly and organically as possible, keeping both host and biological families informed and updated.
To provide a warm and welcoming environment to its students, ISP also plans various events and celebrations throughout the year. They offer orientations for new students and host families, Labor and Memorial Day picnics, pumpkin carving in the fall, and an annual dodgeball tournament. Arguably the most anticipated event, though, is the Lunar New Year Celebration.
A true staple of the ISP event calendar, the Lunar New Year celebration has been in full swing for three years now, previously planned and run by parents and members of GFS's Asian Student Alliance (ASA). After ASA, ISP, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) joined forces several years ago, the Lunar New Year celebration has been a party to remember.
However, the celebration is not exclusively for international students and members of ASA. In fact, the mission of the event is quite the opposite: educate and connect our entire school community about the Lunar New Year, more commonly known in China as the Spring Festival, through festive celebrations of delicious food, music, games, and arts and crafts. With attendance at 100 the kickoff year, the event has literally doubled over the three years, drawing almost 200 people in 2018.
This year, for the Year of the Pig, ISP is planning yet another celebration full of food and fun. Join them on Saturday, February 9, 6-8 p.m. in the Hargroves Center for a fantastic night!