For the first time in years, the International Students Organization (ISO) is back on campus. During the pandemic, when the majority of Concord Academy’s international students were unable to return to school, Wendi Wang ’22 and Audrey Zhang ’22 activated the club, hosting zoom meetings and online events. Due to differences in time zones, the club only met a few times. Now, as everyone is back in person, ISO is picking up from where it left off, planning a year full of activities and events to create a community for the international students.
Life as an international boarding student is exciting but also difficult at times. International students at CA have the opportunity to learn and live in a new country and make new connections. Unlike the domestic boarders, however, the international boarders face challenges such as not being able to go home on weekends, not being able to communicate with their parents regularly due to distance and difference in time zones, possible language barriers, and, not to mention, assimilating to a completely new culture and environment.
International students make up 10 percent of the student body at CA, and despite their distinct circumstances, there are no accommodations specifically for them. Since most of the international students were away all of last year, returning to campus this fall is especially difficult. Because of COVID travel restrictions, international students have gone from being surrounded by their families 24/7, to not being able to see them for months. Most international students will not have the opportunity to return home or see their families over Family Weekend, Thanksgiving break, or even winter break.
ISO aspires to support international students. According to the current coheads, Wendi, Audrey, and Svava Valfells ’23, the club aims to provide a community for the international students, a place where they feel heard and welcome, a place where they can feel at home. Boarding student, Isabella Ginsburg ’23 from Hong Kong, said, “I love being back on campus. It’s a totally different experience than being online and interacting with people in real life. ISO is especially important this year because it links all the students who can’t go home together. It helps us to feel a little less stranded.”
On September 23 the organization had a dinner meeting where students from all over the world including Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, and Hong Kong, were able to share stories, laugh, and connect with one another. Although all from different backgrounds, they discovered common ground and bonded over similar experiences.
Currently, the club is organizing a talent show open to the whole school. This talent show will encourage students (not just international) to share ethnic or cultural skills. The organization is also planning a lock-in, and regular dinner meetings including a potluck, where members can request their favorite food from home.
ISO is delighted to be back on campus and looks forward to supporting the international community at CA.