by Helen Newell ‘18
On Sunday, August 30th, newly arriving International Students from 14 different countries stood to be paired with an eager handful of cheerful LA students from 10-12th grade. These pairings are only a small part of the entirety that is the Ambassador Program. International Students fresh off the plane are paired with student ambassadors (who include both local students and returning Residential students) who are there for those students all year as both friends and mentors. The Ambassadors are there to help these international students adjust and integrate themselves into the new environment and way of life in Maine.
Sunday’s orientation activities began with the new students of all grade levels getting a tour around downtown Damariscotta. They were shown the sights of the town, the good places to eat, as well as the banks and post office. Next, all of the students gathered to mingle and eat pizza. The gathering ended with an ice-breaking activity that kept the students on their feet and introduced them further to one another. By the end of the day, no one could tell that most of the students had never met before.
The Lincoln Academy International Programs began six years ago with only six international students staying in other people’s homes. That same year the International Club started the Student Ambassador Program with the goal of helping new international students acclimate to Lincoln Academy. Both programs began small, but grew in number extremely quickly. This year Lincoln has a total of 81 residential students living in two on-campus dorms and a few homestays in the community.
Lincoln Academy provides a well-rounded environment and on-campus lifestyle for the residential students, with frequent activities and trips all over New England, including a trip to Chinatown during the Chinese New Year. These outings give the students outlets to explore places outside of the small town and experience things outside of the classroom.
The LA Ambassador Program is unique because it not only provides the students with an excellent learning environment, but also allows them to encounter things and experience a different and new life in America. After speaking with some first-year international students, the conclusion was a positive one. Dong Qi, a first year International student and freshman at Lincoln this year, said “I think Maine is a nice place, and I think Maine has good weather. I’m really excited and a little nervous for school because this is the first time I’ve been abroad alone.” The new students felt welcomed and happy to be a part of the school, and most come back every year to finish high school at Lincoln.”
The Ambassador Club is growing year by year, and continues to make students feel at home and welcomed as they begin the year. Its purpose and features are intertwined, with a huge emphasis on the interactions between the students and the help and support that the student ambassadors provide.
Lourdes Von Vogt, Lincoln Academy Spanish teacher and Faculty advisor to the International Club which sponsors the Ambassador Program, explained, “For me, personally, it is when I see students from seemingly disparate backgrounds suddenly realize how much they share, just how similar they really are, and then become friends for life. So many true life friendships have been created through both the international and the Ambassador programs. This for me is the best feature.”
Sammy Aho, a Lincoln Academy sophomore and first-year member of the International Club, said, “We live in a community that doesn’t have much diversity, so adding some, not only for the residential students that are getting the experience of other countries, but also for our local students and community, because they can see that diversity and see that it’s not just here, and not everybody does the same things and talks the same way.”
The Lincoln Academy Ambassadors’ first job is to welcome their classmates from overseas, but it is not their last. During the school year Ambassadors will continue to mentor their resident student partners, participating in activities throughout the year and serving as a tour guides, friends, and supporters.