The students of the EF International School of English in Tarrytown have a New Year’s Resolution this year: to meet more Americans! Many of the school’s approximately 800 students will stay through the cold winter months far away from family and friends. The school is debuting a new mentoring program this winter and is hoping to find community members interested in showing a little goodwill toward a student from abroad by participating in the program.
Anyone who has traveled or lived abroad understands the challenges that come along with it. At EF, many of the students whose dream it was to come to New York, improve their English, and meet Americans find it difficult to connect to people outside the school’s international community. Most of the students live in the residences on EF’s campus, formerly Marymount College, and attend classes in English and other subjects with other international students. The remaining students live with local host families that the school recruits from Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and other nearby communities. Once the cold weather hits, it becomes a challenge combating the “winter blues” amongst the students, many of whom have never experienced a New York winter.
While most of the student body consists of 18 to 25-year olds, students of all ages come to EF for a host of different reasons. Students like Keiko, a 57-year-old Japanese woman, who stayed in Tarrytown for nine months last year, underscore the need for a more integrated school and community environment. Keiko came to New York for personal and professional reasons, hoping to gain a command of English in order to start a business in Japan. She had been a stay-at-home mom and had not worked for decades, but now her children were in college. As one of only a few adult students at EF, Keiko felt a bit lonely. Making it even more difficult was the news around the holidays that her elderly mother was very ill at home in Japan. With airfare to Tokyo costing over $2,000, Keiko was faced with the impossible decision of giving up her dream of learning English in New York and going home for good, or staying in New York and taking the risk that she would not see her mother again. She spoke with her mother and decided to stay, a decision that made the holidays a very sad time for her. The staff took care of Keiko and she finished her program, even staying on for three months longer in Manhattan to complete further studies, but she later related how hard it was for her to be alone while abroad. Her friendships among the staff and students had carried her through, and little things like meeting for coffee had meant the world to her.
The Community Mentors program seeks to match local individuals or families with a student during their six or nine-month stay in Tarrytown. Anyone can be a volunteer, including high-school students ages 17 and up, as long as they are willing to make a commitment of a few hours a month. Mentors will hopefully become friends or family away from home to students who, like Keiko, go through difficult times and feel homesick or isolated at points during their stay. Participating in the program offers a great opportunity to learn about another culture or language, while doing a very good deed. A perfect New Year’s Resolution!
Anyone interested in mentoring or hosting a student can contact Kristen Dayton, Host Family Coordinator, at (914) 597 7104 or email Kristen.firstname.lastname@example.org