Foreign Students In Hawaii Kai
Several months ago, Isatis and Fleur Dumortier-Baumann left their home in sunny New Caledonia, a French territory north of Australia and moved to Hawaii after their mother acquired a lucrative job researching breast cancer at the University of Hawaii. Suddenly, the sisters found themselves in another tropical paradise, similar in climate, but different in many other ways. The people, the language, and culture were big adjustments for the family, but they weren’t alone. Within the last two years, Kaiser has acquired more than 20 new students from around the world.
The expansion of Kaiser’s foreign student demographic is due to a variety of reasons, however the reputation of Kaiser within the local academic community is contributing to the growing number of international pupils. Tom Waller is from Plymouth, England. An avid biker and excellent cricketer, he moved to Hawaii several months ago and was faced with challenge of finding a new school. “We heard lots of great things about Kaiser when my family first moved here. A friend mentioned Kaiser is one of the best schools in the state,” Waller said. Since coming to Kaiser, Waller has fallen into the close knit community of Hawaii Kai and takes an active role in Kaiser Cougar News as a cameraman.
However, Waller and several other foreign students also chose Kaiser because of the International Baccalaureate program. Kaiser began focusing on IB accreditation in 2010 and, beside James Campbell High School, is one of the only public high schools in the state to offer this illustrious program. The IB program offers credits which are valued equally worldwide. This attracted Natalie Koon and her elder brother Kingsly Koon, natives of Hong Kong. “I think the IB program is pretty great. It exposed me to more things, and allowed me to see how the world is connected,” The advantages for Natalie Koon don’t stop there either. With college level courses offered within the program, Koon feels this improves her chances of attending Stanford or Colombia immensely. “IB enhances your knowledge and skills in life.” said Koon.
Some, however, found Kaiser less challenging than they expected. Ricky Chai, a bright but ever humble teenager left Tokyo after an earthquake damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant. He now takes regular Kaiser classes but remains at the top of his class after scoring 450 on the HSA for probability and statistics. He finds Kaiser’s classes isn’t as strenuous as his old school in Tokyo. When asked for differences between the two schools, Chai finds many. “School ends a lot earlier here and there’s more of a chance to get involved in, like sports or clubs, which is good for me.” However, when quizzed about similarities, Chai remained silent. “They’re not similar,” but he has adjusted to his new life in Kaiser. “I’ve always been good at getting used to places,” noted Chai.
Even after moving to Hawaii, the values of one’s homeland often stay with the students. Edward Ho finds he retains his Chinese study habits and his admiration for the openness of the average Kaiser student. “People aren’t robots here. They look happier,” said Ho. However, some find other factors are more difficult to adjust to. “People never go out here either,” said an exasperated Isatis Dumortier-Baumann. “They all stay home!”
Yet, despite these cultural differences, very few experienced culture shock. In fact, many found themselves drawn into the culture. “When I first moved here, I kind of stayed in my corner but then I became more outgoing and talkative.” said Koon. The ability to interact with the people of a alien new place can be attributed to Kaiser’s large variety of ethnicities. As of 2011, there are students comprising over 17 different nationalities including Caucasian, Japanese, Chinese, and many others. attending Kaiser. Not surprisingly, this is why newly arriving foreign students often find Kaiser students who speak the same language. “When I moved here I found another girl who speaks French,” said Isatis Dumortier-Baumann. “She helped me make friends.”
For some foreign students the largest challenge was learning English. Zhen Wei Lou found learning English to be one of the most daunting prospects of his new life in Hawaii. “I moved here six months ago but I’m still not very good at English,” said Lou. However, others had the advantage of attending English classes prior to moving, “Learning the language wasn’t too bad, I already started to learn English back in Italy,” said Elia Bruno.
As these new students adjust to Hawaii, they find an oasis in the people who speak their native tongues and empathize with their struggles adjusting to a new culture. Isatis and Fleur Dumortier-Baumann came to Hawaii with their mom in hopes of a better job and a different life. They have since adjusted to English, and Hawaii’s way of life. “The geography is the same,” said Isatis Dumortier-Baumann “but everything else is different from New Caledonia.” Yet, as time progresses the sisters see that Hawaii brings everyone closer in mind, spirit, and body on a small island chain located in the middle of the Pacific.