Bob Haoqi Xia, a junior at Cape Henry Collegiate, is a student by day and a dolphin by night.
Yes, you read that correctly. In addition to juggling the life of a high school junior, Xia serves as Cape Henry Collegiate’s mascot, a dolphin.
So how does one end up as an undercover dolphin? Xia was approached by the head of admissions at the school because he got along well with the younger students at the school. See, Xia spent some of his first year at the school teaching students in the lower school about Asian culture.
“When I first got here, I tried a lot of new things. Being brave and being willing to try new things (played a big role in my success in America).” Xia said.
Studying in the U.S. is not an easy task. Every student will inevitably face challenges. Using his resources at his New Oasis partner school, the homestay team and the academic team, Xia was able to overcome these issues.
“My first history class was U.S. history. I joined the class halfway through, and just couldn’t keep the pace of the teacher. I went to the teacher and told him, and he helped me a lot. I ended up getting an A+ in the class,” Xia said.
“New Oasis has been great. The first day I arrived, I remember (my student coordinator) picked me up at the airport at almost midnight. She has supported me for a long time. (My academic adviser) always calls and asks me academic things, and tutored me for the TOEFL.”
When Xia arrived in the United States as a sophomore in 2014, one New Oasis event served as the highlight of his year.
“A year ago, we went to New Oasis headquarters and had dinner with Mr. Sean (Chen), the president, at his house with his family. That was pretty cool.”
Xia recently attended an award ceremony, in which he thought he was only going to be a spectator. As the awards were given out, one award-winner’s description caught Xia’s attention. The award was a William and Mary Leadership Award, an awarded granted to individuals whose high schools identify as a change-maker, a shaker-upper, a critical and creative thinker who bring people together.
“I didn’t know I was getting the award. I thought all of the awards being given were for the American kids.” Xia said. “I thought if I were getting some sort of award I would have known about it. When the speaker began describing the winner, I thought ‘is that me?’ When she called my name, I almost froze.”
Living with the same host family during his stay in America, Xia said he really appreciates his family.
“My host family is great. They’ve been really helpful. I learned a lot about American culture.”
Rena Shenghan Gao is a successful student in every sense of the word. Only a freshman at The Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina, Rena has already achieved more than most students achieve during their entire four years in high school.
Rena is a star-student, but that’s only the beginning.
She is actively involved in a number of extracurricular activities and was recently elected vice president of her school’s Student Government Association by her peers.
When she’s not in class, Rena often spends time taking care of students in Ravenscroft’s elementary school. She loves observing other’s behavior and offering help whenever she can. She has also worked with the Chinese-Culture Club, where she plans activities to introduce Chinese culture and language to other students.
“(Rena’s) curiosity for knowledge drives her to explore a wide range of subjects. She is doing very well in every single subject at school, getting straight As or A-pluses,” said Yun Liu, Rena’s academic adviser at New Oasis.
“Every teacher gives great comments on Rena’s very impressive academic performance. They speak highly on Rena’s efforts improving herself and collaborating with other students in group projects.”
Rena also keeps up her interest in ballet dancing. Outside of her activities at school, she independently discovered a ballet school in her area, and participates in classes several times each week after school.
The freshman student is especially interested in Psychology. When Liu suggested a psychology summer program for Rena to attend, Rena did not hesitate to take action and apply for the Duke TIP Scholar weekend program in Abnormal Psychology.
She was admitted by the program shortly after applying. The scholar program is an intense, demanding, weekend session where students are challenged to think critically about themselves and the world.
“If I really want to do something but I am not sure if I can succeed, I just take a chance and put in my best efforts. It’s better to have tried and failed than never try at all,” Gao said.
“I miss everything China-related, but whenever I have questions about academics, extracurricular activities or more personal concerns, my (New Oasis) advisor is there to listen to my problems and help me out.”
Passionate about the French language, Rena is pursuing opportunities to take French classes at Duke University, North Carolina State, or Meredith College. This summer, Rena plans to take her French studies to the next level by studying in Morocco, Africa with Project Abroad.
Someone once joked “before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you’re a mile from them and you have their shoes.” On a serious note, a figurative walk in someone else’s shoes can tell you a lot about what that person is going through.
New Oasis students know the feeling, as two members of the New Oasis staff traveled to Peninsula Catholic High School last week to meet with school staff and better understand the challenges the school and its students are facing.
On May 13, Lizzie Liu, academic associate, and Tammy Becker, Homestay 360 manager, traveled to the school to meet students for an Ice Cream Social, where they were able to hang out with their students and figure out their concerns.
The next day, the two staff members met with the principal, two school guidance counselors, the director of international students, and an ESL teacher at Peninsula Catholic School and discussed these issues with the high school staff.
“They really want to know how to make the program better,” Liu said. “They told us their concerns, and now we can address them.”
One issue the group discussed was how to get international students more involved in school activities and clubs. During this discussion, the group decided international students at Peninsula Catholic could start an international student club, and teach Chinese to younger students in filler schools.
Focusing specifically on issues related to learning English as a non-native speaker, the team suggested having assigned readings, using books on tape during class to improve listening skills, and bringing in American students to role play every day interactions.
The school was willing to hear these ideas and even mentioned starting a mentor program in the future.
As an additional outcome of these meetings, the New Oasis academic team will work with the school to ensure students are placed in classes that are the appropriate strength for each New Oasis student.
“It was great for all of us to sit down together and brainstorm how to make this better for everyone,” Becker said.
The team was invited back to the school at the beginning of the academic year to present cultural differences to full-time staff at the school.
For more information on the trip, contact Mike Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org