Ranney School is embarking on new global education initiatives to ensure that students in all divisions gain a sense of global awareness and understand global perspectives, and thereby better comprehend their part in contributing to the whole world. In addition to offering new courses, such as Middle School Global Ethics, to students starting next fall, the school is looking forward to having exchange students on campus on a regular basis for the first time in Ranney’s 55-year history.
This school year, Ranney is hosting one full-year exchange student and one full-year international student, both independent of a hosting organization (see their stories below). The school has since applied and received approval from the US Government’s Student Exchange and Visitor Program as a SEVIS-designated school, which allows us to host students from abroad. Ranney will begin hosting international students in the 2015-16 school year. Students will be enrolled in grades 8-11 via F-1 visas, with the anticipation that they will stay at the school through graduation.
Below is a look into the experiences to date of Madeleine “Madou” Miglianico, a French exchange student who has been living with the Denton family (Madalyn ’16 and Andrew ’18) in Middletown since last summer, and Yonghao “Jason” Wu, a Chinese international student who has been living with local family members in Ocean since the fall while attending Ranney SchoolMadou’s story
Madou came to Ranney from France’s Institution Notre Dame de Sion after her family, regular visitors to the states, became friends with the Dentons. She is currently in our 12th grade but will return to France for her 13th year of school before graduating from high school; she then plans to apply to medical school.
Madou, who is fluent in English, comes from a long line of exchange students—all four of her older siblings spent time studying abroad as did some of her aunts and uncles. Even so, she admits she was nervous about meeting new people and making friends when she came to the US, but says that “everyone at Ranney was very welcoming; my advisee helped me to make friends and the fall student retreat made it easy to get to know everyone.” Madou has also admired the student-teacher relationship here at Ranney, noting that in France, “there is not really a chance to be close to teachers. But here, you can get help if needed or talk to them if you have a problem.” She also enjoys the ability to participate in activities and sports. “In France, school runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and there is no time for extracurriculars,” she explains. Madou has taken up Ranney tennis and swimming and also participates in the Lower School Internship program where she works with Beginners.
The hardest part of being away from home for so long, she says, besides not being able to see her family, has been “being careful what I say or ensuring that my words are not misconstrued or interpreted differently; sometimes, the culture differs in that respect.”
Madou says she would definitely recommend studying abroad to her friends back home in France. “It’s been the both the best and hardest experience of my life,” she adds.
The Dentons have also greatly enjoyed the experience of being a host family. Says junior Madalyn of Madou: “We instantly got along and became very good friends! It was odd at first adjusting to having a second sibling, but it didn't take too long to get used to—mostly because Madou fit in with our family so well and adjusted to the ‘Denton Family Way’ beautifully. In fact, it surprised me how well she integrated into my home, Ranney and American culture in general. It was almost as if she had done it all before, even though she hasn’t. Overall I think the experience has gone really well for my family and me. It has brought us closer and we often find ourselves spending more time with each other and doing things as a family more. In fact, this is going to sound so cliché, but I think Madou’s stay has taught me the value of my family and to appreciate them more. She has also taught me how similar yet different French culture is. Madou and I repeatedly have lengthy talks about the similarities and differences between French and American teenagers and among French and American stereotypes. I know after Madou leaves, my family will be upset for days on end, but I know I’ve gained a life-long sister after this experience.”
Mr. and Mrs. Steve and Dana Denton had never hosted an exchange student before Madou. They met Madou and her family through a neighbor two summers ago. Because their daughter Madalyn was about the same age—and the two got along great, they ultimately invited Madou stay with them for three weeks in the summer of 2013 and then Madalyn went to live with Madou’s family in Paris for two weeks. “When we found out she was looking for a host family for her senior year, we were happy to have her join our family,” they said. “We have really enjoyed our time with Madou and this experience has been great for our family. Just adding another teenager to the house was a change, but it’s allowed us to appreciate and experience a different culture, while also getting to really know Madou,” they said.
“The school, faculty and students have been very welcoming, enabling Madou to enjoy a great American high school experience. Ranney has created the opportunity for Madou to participate in school sports, clubs and social activities that are different from her school in France,” added the Dentons. Looking ahead to Ranney’s growing exchange program, the Dentons note that, “Foreign exchange programs are great not only for the students who participate, but also the families and schools that host them. It creates an opportunity for continued learning and cultural development. We think this is a great step for Ranney and hope that the host families enjoy their experience as much as we have."
Jason came to Ranney School from China’s Affiliated Tianhe School of Guangdong/Experimental Middle School and will be matriculating at Ranney through his graduation in 2018. Currently in 9th grade, his mother works in New York City through a work visa, which allows Jason to be here in the US, where he resides with his aunt and uncle in Ocean. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Jason has been the language barrier. He speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese and has been privately tutored in English throughout the school year. “Ranney is very different from Chinese schools,” he says. “I feel a key difference between what I am experiencing here at Ranney compared to what I experienced previously in China is that, here, my teachers encourage me to think critically, supporting my attempts to think through an issue and arrive at my own conclusions. In China, I was taught the answer to the problem and expected to agree and memorize that answer.”
Jason has also found the diversity at Ranney to be unique—something he did not experience as a student in the Chinese town of Guangzhou, near Hong Kong. “I’ve found many more students of different races here than I expected and that is a good thing,” he says.
Jason says he is greatly enjoying being a student here in the US, but of course is looking forward to returning home over summer break to spend time with his family.
His mother, Michelle Fang, has been extremely thankful for the program. “Ranney School has been meeting with my family and Jason’s tutor since the beginning of the year, making sure all the teachers and our family communicate regularly. I have been extremely impressed that at Ranney, each student is viewed and treated as an individual, receiving the education and attention best suited to meet their particular needs and to suit their unique talents. I hope more Chinese students can join Ranney and get the quality education here,” she says.