For some students, it was their first day at a new school. For others, it was their first day at a school in the United States, where they hope to one day return and receive the rest of their education.
Lafayette Christian School welcomed 15 Korean students to participate in their short-term international student program this week. The students range from 7 to 14 years old and are living with host families from the school during their three-week stay in Troup County.
“They are excited to be here and really love the host homes,” Headmaster John Cipolla said. “The family atmosphere of playing games and doing fun activities together, whether it’s ping pong or a board game, is so different from their culture.”
Korean students are accustomed long school days followed by extra curricular learning activities that often last until 11 p.m., he said.
The students began their trip in Boston on July 25 and visited eight Ivy League schools, including Princeton, Harvard and Yale, throughout the northeast.
“These parents are planting the seeds for their kids to go to these colleges,” Cipolla said.
Cipolla is currently hosting two children, ages 12 and 14, the single chaperon of the trip, KiCheon Kim.
Kim is the manager of Aim High Education Inc. and said it is his sixth visit of this kind to the U.S.
He took students sightseeing in New York City and Washington D.C. before arriving in LaGrange to continue the American education experience.
“Now they are having a good time in their homes,” Kim said.
Together, the Korean agency USAIEC and LCS participate in two types of international student programs. The short-term program is for those students who want to get exposure to American culture, such as those currently enrolled at LCS.
“The other option is as exchange students who study with us for a year, to work on their English and their education,” said Rene Gomez, Assistant Headmaster and international student program coordinator.
Gomez, who is currently hosting two international students, said both programs have cultural benefits.
“Being able to see students with diverse backgrounds and interact with people from the other sides of the world is a hands-on learning experience,” Gomez said.
The program allows both groups to change the way they perhaps viewed the other and eliminate stereotypes.
“We sometimes have this stigma of what the other person is like and who they are,” he said. “It’s good to be able to put that aside and have a relationship with that person, be of service to them and be a friend.”
Service is part of the school’s religious education, which is integrated into the international program.
“We want to live our Christian faith before them,” Cipolla said. “We’ve had some even become Christians while they were here.”
Baptisms were performed on international students who chose to convert to Christianity during previous years.
Several of these students, Cipolla said, had a hard time embracing the Bible and concept of God at first.
“I remember one girl who asked so many questions about the Bible,” he said. “By the end of the three weeks, she was reading verses to her host family at home.”
The students will be attending Lafayette Christian Academy until August 21.
The group will be going to Atlanta to visit the CNN Center, World of Coke and Georgia Aquarium today.