During the 2013-2014 school year, McNicholas High School has the privilege of hosting ten students from foreign countries that include China, Thailand, and South Korea. During their time in the United States, they live with host families and study as members of the student body.
“My favorite part about living in the United States is the education,” junior Ploy Sithisakulrat said. Two years ago, Sithisakulrat moved from her native country of Thailand to Texas, where she studied for a year before moving to Cincinnati so she could attend McNicholas. “ It was an easy transition for me, though, because in most Asian countries, you are required to take English as a second language.”
The average number of international students coming to study in America has greatly increased during the past few years. As of 2012, a survey by U.S. News found that 764,495 students from foreign countries were moving to the United States in order to receive a better education. This number is a jump of over 6% from 2011 statistics.
With thirteen of the world’s twenty best universities located in the United States, high schools and colleges are noticing an influx in the population of international students, many of whom stay with host families until they are able to live on their own. Unlike a foreign exchange program, in which students stay for an average of six to ten months before returning to their home countries, international students study for full academic years, often living with a host family up through graduation.
This year, McNicholas is hosting ten international students: Harry Chen, Iris Chen, Ningyi Li, Shuohua Zou, Yi Zhang, and Siyi Zhang from China; Olivia Lee, Woojin Kong and Sehee Jang from South Korea; and Ploy Sithisakulrat from Thailand.
Sithisakulrat plans to graduate from McNicholas and continue her education in the U.S. through college. From there, she may stay in the country for a longer time in order to become an architect or orthopedic surgeon. “I do miss Thailand sometimes, especially my little sister and my dog, Jumbo,” Sithisakulrat admitted. “I still get to go home during summer vacation and spend time with my family, so I’m rarely homesick.”
Among the group of ten international students attending McNicholas, the most common country of origin is China. Senior Kevin Zhang and junior Siyi Zhang (no relation) both came to the United States from Shanghai, the largest city in the world, with over 17 million residents in the major metropolitan area.
“Obviously, things are much slower here,” Siyi said. “I’ve never really had free time after school to do what I want, so it’s a new experience for me. So far, the only thing I really miss about Shanghai is the food. What they call ‘Chinese food’ in America just isn’t right!”
Siyi arrived just in time to spend her sophomore year at McNicholas, and plans to move to a larger city in the U.S. for her college years. “I think accounting might be the ideal major for me,” Siyi said. “I want a job that’s steady; one that pays well. Accounting might not be what most people think of as a fun job, but I’ve decided that I’m looking for a life that’s exciting outside of work.”
Another student from Shanghai, Kevin Zhang, plans to use the skills he has learned at McNicholas to further his education in computer programming. This past summer, he was able to spend much of his time learning about hardware and repair, thanks to connections from his host family.
“I love American education, and I love American food,” Kevin commented. “I definitely want to go to college in the United States, and I think the work I did over the summer got me one step closer to having a real job with computers.”
In 2012, sophomore Sehee Jang made the 14 hour flight to the U.S. from her home in South Korea, a country notable for its rigorous education system and competitive classroom setting. Jang is not the first in her family to be educated in America; her younger sister has spent the last three years studying in Chicago.
“When my sister came back to Korea, she had changed so much,” Jang said. “She could barely remember how to speak her native language. I want to stay in the United States, but I don’t want to forget where I come from.”
Jang draws much of her ambition from her father, who is an actor back home in South Korea. Since she was young, Jang has aspired to be an actress herself.
“I’ve always wanted to be on stage, but my English probably isn’t good enough to make it here. I’m also looking into doing social work once I graduate college, or even psychology.” Jang said. “I just know that I want to help people. I want to make a difference in people’s lives.”