Intolerable. That’s the only word for the living conditions of some of the international students.
Begging for food or pleading for rides to sports games should not be common occurrences for our students. Period.
For about five years now, the school has been in partnership with a third-party study-abroad program called UC Educations, which streamlines the process of bringing international students to schools in the U.S. And for most of those years, the program went unquestioned by a large majority of the school.
Now, after years of crying for help, the international students have finally released their stories, which you can read here.
What the Octagon discovered about the international program is disturbing, to say the least. And our feature doesn’t even cover the worst of it. In five pages of copy, we barely managed to scratch the surface.
The situations international students have been subjected to are so suboptimal that it’s hard to believe the families are paying extra, let alone thousands and thousands extra. Students are dropping enormous sums of money in hopes of receiving the experience of a lifetime, and are instead being met with difficult conditions and ineffective coordinators.
None of these students could have foreseen that they would be placed with uncaring host families and then ignored by their agency.
However, despite the obviously objectionable conditions, international students have remained relatively silent due to a justified fear of the third-party agency and, sometimes, the school itself.
When a child feels too afraid to speak up and voice his or her discomfort, that is a major sign that something wrong is running through the campus.
It seems that even those who speak up are blocked at every turn from receiving real help.
But let’s get something clear. These “international students” are our friends, peers and classmates. The people who we see every day are the ones placed into such difficult situations and expected to figure it out on their own. These aren’t strangers whom we couldn’t care less about.
Chinese international students have now attended Country Day for quite a while, building up reputations as kind, polite, contributing members of the student body. Some are quiet and maybe a little timid, while others are vibrant and fiery.
But regardless of personality, they are undeniably a valuable part of the Country Day community.
It’s evident that many of these students have endured unacceptable living conditions. Their stories have proven this time and time again.
But it can change.
It’s time to realize that we have made mistakes. It’s high time that we apologize and then get down to work.
If Country Day still believes in its mission of protecting all students and providing a safe learning environment, now is the time to prove it.
We understand that reforming the international student program will not happen instantaneously. We know that we may have to take a series of steps to true reform.
And perhaps one of those steps includes abandoning UC Educations.
Granted, the relationship between UC Educations and Country Day sounds perfect in theory. Their partnership provides useful services on both sides. But as some students have revealed, irresponsible execution has rendered the relationship far from ideal. How can we comfortably continue to defend this agency after information from the students has been released?
Nevertheless, only intensive research from a body that is dedicated solely to protecting these students will clarify the situation and give us clear direction on how to proceed.
Time is of the essence for this inquiry into the operations of the international student program. More international students may begin at Country Day next fall, so the summer provides us with the perfect opportunity to take an in-depth look at what kind of a deal the school has really signed onto.
But besides launching a full-fledged investigation, what else can we do? We can all remain vigilant.
These students absolutely need strong host families driven only to care for them.
They need families who care whether or not they are eating.
They need families who aren’t looking to profit off of their stays.
They need families who are willing simply to ask how they are doing.
They need families who want to keep their parents up to date and who understand the ins and outs of Country Day and can guide and integrate the students.
They need families who understand that living more than 6,000 miles away from everyone you know can take a toll on anyone.
And we have a responsibility to ensure that such families are found.
But going one step further, we need the school administrators who deal with UC Educations to listen to what the students are saying and to be willing to fight on their behalf.
The Octagon knows that there are good families, administrators, faculty members and students at Country Day. And if these people can step up, they will save the next international students whom Country Day admits from the conditions that the others have endured.
We’ve turned a blind eye to the international program for so long, mostly because most members of the community were unaware of just how poorly the students are treated. Now that their stories are out, we can no longer ignore their quiet cries for help. Because helping our friends, our fellow students, our community members is not just the right thing to do. It’s the only thing to do.