International Students Arrive for 7th Annual Conference

Collegiate School will welcome 41 high school students from nine countries as they arrive in Washington, D.C. this weekend for the start of the 7th Annual International Emerging Leaders Conference (IELC).
For the next 10 days, the international delegates will be hosted by Collegiate families and, alongside 16 Collegiate seniors, will work in teams to solve environmental challenges facing each of their countries. Collegiate seniors are involved in the conference as part of their IELC Senior Capstone class.

The three International Emerging Leaders programs (IELC, IELC - Asia and IELC - Americas) are the signature programs of global engagement at Collegiate,” said Clare Sisisky, Collegiate’s Institute for Responsible Citizenship Director. “IELC is a global event held on campus that brings our students and their peers from around the world togetherfor collaboration and connection.”

Over the course of the conference, students will hear from various speakers, visit local universities and present their solutions at DesignPitch, a culminating event of the conference open to the general public. The delegates will also spend time with JK-12 Collegiate students and share aspects of their cultures.  

“Participants in IELC learn not only how to facilitate and lead with their international partners, they gain an in-depth immersive experience in product design and social entrepreneurship around environmental issues,” Mrs. Sisisky said. “The international students also experience life at an American school and become part of our community.”

Collegiate seniors Kieran Cottrell and Amy Kaplan, who will be among the School’s ambassadors, spoke about IELC, how they got involved and what they are looking forward to during the 2017 conference.

Last year, I was a junior ambassador, so I did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, especially on the first day when the delegates arrived. We had a lot of icebreaker games planned and we did a lot of the preparation here in the [Sharp Academic Commons Estes] cafe.

We were brought into the conference later on in the week and got to spend more time with the international kids than I thought we actually would. I really got to interact with a lot of the students that I didn’t think I would interact with. The delegates are basically our age, and just getting to hang out with them, just talk to them about things was just so much fun. I also hosted a student from India, which I absolutely loved.

We’ve done a lot of preparing for IELC. I was assigned, along with another Chinese [language] student (I speak Chinese), to create a pamphlet for families that are hosting students from that country. It will have common greetings, information on food and some facts about where things are in China.

Last year, I had what I imagine was a small glimpse of the larger in-depth experience of communicating with students from across the world. So, I’m looking forward to further interactions. Our lives are strikingly different and strikingly similar — they are my age, they are going to high school, they are working toward the next part of their lives.

Last year during IELC, I was a host family for a girl from Spain named Lola. All Upper Schoolers were contacted about hosting people and my family thought it would be a unique experience and a good opportunity to meet someone new.    

I don’t speak Spanish, but Lola was completely fluent in English. There were never any problems. My dad actually speaks Spanish, so it was funny because they would converse and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It was an ongoing joke. But we had no problems communicating at all. Lola is a senior this year and we’re still in contact. I wish she was coming back this year, but I will definitely talk to her while some of her classmates are here.

While Lola was visiting, we coordinated a dinner with other host families. And since the first day of IELC was a Jewish holiday and I’m Jewish, we had a dinner with my family and another Collegiate family. It was really cool because that was something Lola thought was really interesting that she got to experience.

In the IELC class, we have been talking about current events and what is going on in the countries that are coming. We are also working on information sheets about the countries of the students that each host family will see. They’ll also go out to teachers and Middle Schoolers and Upper Schoolers. I’m researching South Africa. It’s nice for our host families to have a little bit more understanding of where the students are coming from and to try to make them as comfortable as possible. It’s a really intense 10 days. The days are really long, so for them to be able to come back to their host family and feel comfortable is really a priority.

I went to DesignPitch last year to see Lola and some of my classmates present and some of the solutions they came up with were really practical but also imaginative. I’m really excited to participate in that this year.

I got a little taste of it last year, but this year I’ll be able to meet everyone from different cultures. I’m a little bit nervous, but mostly excited. The teachers tell us that it’s almost like we’re in a different country, but we’re just sleeping at home. It’s a packed schedule, but all the activities are really wonderful and exciting.
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