CCS' International Student Program
Marissa Hasnani, Staff Writer
“I think as American students here in a Christian school, it’s so important to prepare you for the world.
“Love your neighbor, go out to all the nations. Well, we don’t have to go, they came to us.”
CCS’ International Student Program is now in its fourth year of operation and has changed the lives of the students and staff of CCS. What does it take to motivate families from other countries to send their students to a small Christian school in Chattanooga, Tennessee? How has the program impacted the community of CCS?
Lorraine Hoffman, the head of the program, has always loved and appreciated the integration of cultures from other countries into life at CCS. Teaching Spanish in the lower school for thirteen years helped her lead students on a path of cultural awareness and understanding, even from a young age. So, when Mr. Dirkse approached her with the idea to start up an international student program in 2015, she could not say no. Even since then, Hoffman has striven to make the international program the best it could possibly be, and she has done just that. When asked why the program was so crucial to CCS, Hoffman said, “I think as American students here in a Christian school, it’s so important to prepare you for the world.”
So, why Chattanooga Christian School, and why America? Well, many (if not all) of the educational systems in the countries where the international students come from are very competitive, even more competitive than here in America. One place we see this is in China, where many of our international students come from. Throughout all “pre-college” schooling, they are preparing to take one exam (called the Gaokao) which determines if they can go to college or not. This exam also determines what kind of college they go to, which then determines their jobs as adults. But, as Hoffman said in our interview, “Some parents want to give students a different opportunity.” Which is exactly why these students are in the American school system. In addition, if those students from other countries attend high school in America, they will be more likely to get into a college in America. Creating an opportunity for a future in the United States is something parents of our international students believe is a family priority. “Education is a way they show love,” Hoffman said. Being able to offer these students an alternative, even away from their own families, shows both sacrifice and love for their future.
To be an international student, I think it takes a lot of bravery to be able to leave everything you know and essentially start over with a new language, with new people, and in a new country. Hoffman describes CCS international students as “brave, courageous, remarkable”. She adds, “I think that International students have more of a global thinking than American students do.” This is mainly because as Americans we have a very limited view of the world and who we are, as well as who we are supposed to be. For the most part, in other countries, they are raised to be equipped with the power to think broadly. As of now, CCS has students from the following countries: Bahamas, China, France, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The first student, who is now attending college at Sewanee University, was Stephen Lee from China. When it comes to adding students from new countries, it is all about the agencies. Hoffman has about five agencies that contact her when there are new students who would like to attend school at CCS.
The program here at CCS is not only for international students but also for those who live in the Chattanooga area. One way students can get involved is by being a part of the Global Ambassador Program. The GAP gives the international students a leg up by just offering to be there for them in whatever way they can. Students who volunteer to be part of the GAP are also extremely helpful because on the first day of school, instead of not knowing anyone, they know the Global Ambassadors and can feel comfortable coming to them. “I see students feeling comfortable befriending and pursuing somebody who is very different from them, and that is beautiful,” Hoffman says. When it comes to making the new students feel a part of the CCS community, host families are also crucial. In almost all host families, the international students have host siblings which they can develop relationships with throughout their time spent as part of their family. These host families make it just that much easier for new students to become a part of the CCS community.
The International Student Program has benefited (and still continues to) the CCS community in many ways. Hoffman says that the program, “opens the eyes and gives the understanding needed of our people to meet and interact with someone from another culture.” As students living in a small town in Tennessee, we are not always exposed to people of different cultures. This is exactly why the program is so crucial to the furthering of not just CCS as a school but also as a Christ-centered community. “I just want them to have experiences so that when they go out into the real world they’re not scared to death just because someone looks or sounds different,” Hoffman explains. As for hopes within the program, Hoffman wants to continue to strive for greatness. She says, “My heart’s desire is that this program is valued by everyone, everybody will tell you it’s great, but I want it to be valued because of its importance in shaping our American students.”
Being involved with the program does not always have to start with welcoming a student into your home or even being a global ambassador. In April, provided CCS faculty and students are back on campus following the time spent at home for social distancing this semester, the GAP will be holding their annual street festival. The festival is used to represent all of the countries in which the students are from as well as opening the eyes of those who attend. The festival is meant to show that learning about other cultures is cool and fun. For further questions concerning the festival, feel free to contact Ms. Hoffman at email@example.com.