written by Maddie Schaafsma, Class of 2018
Peter Peng has only lived with the Smith family for a year and a half. But he is already considered family.
Peter is an international student from China. He quickly integrated into the Smith family and Timothy Christian Schools.
“When my husband was in high school he spent six weeks in Brazil as an international student,” Mrs. Mason-Smith says. “He loved the experience and we wanted to be on the other end of things this time.”
Deciding to host an international student can seem overwhelming at first. But Timothy provides resources to make the transition an easy and comfortable one. There is a vetting process for each student to get accepted into the program, which includes an interview and an English proficiency test. And there are many informational meetings before the process even begins.
From the beginning, Peter, who is a junior, was a perfect fit for the Smith family. He quickly formed a relationship with his host brother, Seamus, who is a sophomore.
Mrs. Mason-Smith has loved the opportunity to become a second mom. “I am able to help and counsel Peter in whatever he needs,” she says. “I love watching him grow in his spiritual life. I treat him as if he were my own kid.”
There are 17 international students currently enrolled in Timothy Christian High School. The World View Club is a social piece that serves under the program. Because of the World View Program, that was started in 2009, students from all over Asia have the opportunity to study at Timothy.
Mr. DeKoekkoek, better known as DK at Timothy, is the head of the World View Program and always has his office open for students. During lunch, it is often an outlet where the international students can hang out with each other and feel more at home.
“We are proud of the kids that are here,” DK says. “Our goal is to make sure they flourish academically and that they are part of our community.”
Part of integrating international students into the community is the World View Club. The club is not just for international students, but focuses on making Timothy students a part of the activities.
The club hosts many events throughout the year. Some of these outings include trips downtown to Chinatown, skydiving, skiing in Wisconsin, Bulls games, and ice skating. Many events are hosted at Timothy, such as a Christmas party and Taste of the World, where students were encouraged to bring and try food from all around the world. All these events and outings are open to Timothy students and international students.
Yanni Gu is another international student at Timothy. She transferred to Timothy for high school and is top of the senior class. As soon as she got to Timothy, she put all her energy into becoming part of the community. She is a member of chamber choir, tennis, head of the World View Club, Mock Trial, WYSE, and Scholastic Bowl. She says the World View Club is by far her favorite.
“My first year was easy because of the love and support I received from the teachers and students,” Yanni says.
Yanni hopes to become a surgeon. She spent the summer at a medical camp at Rush University Medical Center, which Timothy helped to place her. Yanni plans to attend John Hopkins University after she graduates from Timothy.
When talking about Yanni, DK lights up. “Yanni is the epitome of what you want to see in an international student. She’s social and engaging,” DK says. “She’s conscientious of being a well-rounded person. Camps, volunteering, she wants to do it all. It’s great to show other kids, both international and Timothy students.”
The Smith’s say that this experience opened up their family and has been such a positive opportunity for them. They encourage everyone to give hosting an international student a try.
No role is more important than that of our host families. While our high school can offer an authentic American high school experience, through our host families we can provide a unique Christian family experience to our international students. Want more information about becoming a host family? Email Ryan DeKoekkoek at email@example.com.