Friday, October 16, 2009

International Students reflect on
First Weeks at Thornton Academy

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist
At the start of the school year, Thornton Academy welcomed 40 international students into its inaugural boarding-student program. A month into the academic year, it’s clear that these students indeed feel welcome.
“I love this place,” said Chou Han, a junior from the Chinese city of Suzhou, which is near Shanghai. He believes the best part “is the relationships between the teachers and the students.”
“I think it’s a great school,” said Denitsa Atanasova, a junior from the island nation of Malta, located in the Mediterranean Sea. “It’s an amazing opportunity for all of us to be here and I hope that we all make the best of it.” Atanasova has wasted no time in taking full advantage of the opportunities that Thornton offers, having already joined Speech Team and the Interact Club (a community service organization). “And I’ll probably join some more,” she added.
“It’s much, much, much better than I thought before I came,” said Shirley Zhao, a junior who came all the way from China’s capital city of Beijing.
“I’m on the Cross Country team and in Interact,” said Melody Chen, a junior from Taiwan. “And that’s really fun,” she added.
The best part of junior Atanasova’s American experience so far is “how friendly everyone is. We came by ourselves and we knew no one. Everyone is always so nice to us, and we made so many friends in the course of a month. That’s really helped us sort of adjust to living here, and being away from home and away from our parents and family and all that.”
The American approach to signing up for classes was the biggest surprise for Alex Li, a sophomore from Beijing. At Thornton “we can choose the classes. In China we can’t choose our classes,” he said.
11th grader Chen also noted the difference between TA and Taiwan: “Compared to Taiwan everything’s different. Every class is really different. In Taiwan we all stay in the same classroom all day.”
“There are a lot of sports teams, and a lot of games everyday,” noted Melo Geng, a sophomore from Bozhou, China, a small city in the middle of the country. “I had never seen a football game (before).” For his own sports plans, Geng says, “I want to join the basketball team.”
Thornton Academy constructed a new dormitory for the boarding program, and the international students have been impressed. “I never was in a boarding school before,”
explained Daniela Montoya, a 9th grader from Columbia. “So to see the dorm is amazing, it’s very nice.” Chen concurs: “It’s amazing, we have everything, and it always smells good, at least the girls side.”
And for 9th grader Emily Hu from Shanghai, the best part is simply “the kitchen.”
With regards to his new adopted home state, sophomore Li says Maine is “very quiet, and it’s very beautiful, and very natural I think. Very different from Beijing where there is a lot of noise.” 9th grader Hu’s first impression was that there are “a lot of trees.” 9th grader Montoya says, “It’s cold, but I love the cold!”
11th grader Atanasova summed it all up saying, “It’s so much different then what I imagined, and so much better too.”
Photo caption: Thornton Academy welcomed 40 international students to its campus this fall. The students are pictured in front of their dorm. (Jenn Haas photo)