By Tamara Leyrer
Helping international students integrate into the student body and adjust to life in a new country and education system is a vital responsibility of any high school with an international student program. At Wisconsin Lutheran High School (WLHS), this responsibility is taken to heart and the school has developed an ambitious program with a proven track record for international student success at high school and complete preparation for transition into university.
WLHS makes every international student feel welcomed from the moment they get off the plane and equips every student for the first day they step into the classroom. It begins with an extensive, multi-day orientation where the new international student meets an American student mentor.
American student mentors help international students overcome one of the biggest challenges international students face — cultural and language barriers. Each new international student has a specially selected mentor whose purpose is to help them through the orientation process and who will continue the friendship and guidance for their entire first year at WLHS.
American mentors guide their international mentees in understanding the culture, the new neighborhood they live in, the school systems, classes, clubs, sports, organizations, and they also introduce them to other American students and friends. Through the friendship both American and international students grow in their intercultural communication skills and knowledge of other worldviews.
Anh Quang Le, grade 12, 3rd year at WLHS.
“The mentor-mentee activities were definitely a great help for me in finding friends and developing a bond with them. Being able to spend quality time with my mentor and his friends once every month was a valuable opportunity. Also, when we see each other in class we would say hi and discuss something about our day which is really fun too.”
Julian Minh Quan Vu, grade 12, 2nd year at WLHS
"From the very beginning, the mentorship program at WLHS has always impressed me the most. Your mentor is not just your mentor, they will be your friend, teammate, and even family. When I first came here, my mentor introduced me to his friends. Then throughout the year, he guided me in the Robotics Team. During Thanksgiving, spring break, and even summer, I met his family and lived with them. Just soon after, he and his family became my family too. So value your mentor, they can be much more than you can ever expect."
A common question asked by international students and parents is: Are there any programs to support international students to adjust to the new learning style as well as the new environment?
Through an extensive, all-encompassing orientation program, WLHS allows students to feel confident navigating the unfamiliar systems in the U.S. high school. Before school officially begins, students know how to use the online learning management system to access daily class assignments, homework, teacher announcements, feedback, grades, schedules, and more.
Students meet their guidance counselor to discuss their class schedule and talk about any anxieties the student might be having. The technology teacher trains students on their new personal computer and technology used by the school.
The assistant principals guide students through the guidelines, dress code, and expectations for behavior. Students are taught U.S. classroom norms and especially the concepts of cooperative learning, critical thinking, and communication through writing and speaking, which are integral components of the classes at WLHS.
Residential Life Program
The teenage years are some of the most formative years of one’s life. The WLHS Residential Life Program's goal is to develop compassionate young adults who demonstrate personal and social responsibility, academic success, and intercultural competence. To achieve this goal, the teachers who serve as the dormitory supervisory staff hold weekly small group student sessions that address student growth in these 4 areas: community and cultural competence, health and mental wellness, intrapersonal development, and academic preparedness.
Prepared for the Life
Throughout their time at WLHS, international students continue to gain confidence and independence in their life as a student in the USA. From the dormitory, to the classroom, to the many co-curricular programs, the students are nurtured and surrounded by positive direction for their lives and future. Nothing proves this more than the happiness of WLHS students themselves as seen in this quote from grade 12 student Emily Miao.
“This year, because of my interest in chemistry, I started to do chemistry research at Wisconsin Lutheran College under Dr. Ebeling’s guidance. I worked with the research team and presented our research results in a scientific symposium. I have never regretted attending WLHS. From the caring environment to encouraging staff, from the comprehensive curriculum to leadership training, WLHS has prepared me well for my future.”
Tamara Leyrer (B.S. Ed, M. Ed. World Language Instruction) is the international admissions director at Wisconsin Lutheran High School.