Mt. Blue offers community learning through International Student Program

6 mins read

FARMINGTON – There are many benefits to traveling to and exploring other countries; tasting foods and immersing oneself in another culture is a way to experience an education that studying alone can’t provide. Mt. Blue High School’s International Student Program does that for students around the world.

The International Student Program has been a success since it began in 2015 and its director, World Language teacher Lisa Dalrymple, has opened up about the success of the experiential learning opportunity.

“We have students from China, Spain, and Mexico, and next year we have some coming from Korea, India, China, Spain, Mexico,” Dalyrmple said. “It’s awesome because…students are curious; students want to know about other cultures, and it’s good to get a perspective outside of our perspective in class.”

Dalrymple stated that it’s important for both students and teachers to learn that there are other ways of thinking, and that these outside perspectives show students how different other cultures can be and provide an appreciation regarding differences.

The ISP at Mt. Blue came to be after significant funding cuts to the World Language department, and its inception is part of a push to return to having more opportunities to study world languages in the classroom and further cultural experiences.

“When I first started in this district, we had a world languages starting in the first grade, so we had a 1–12 program, and over the years things were cut; we ended up without the elementary program—we used to have French and Spanish—and then over the years, even in the middle school, it’s been reduced—I mean this year, we don’t even have a teacher,” Dalrymple said. “World Language is often cut, even though we’re part of the Maine learning standards…it’s all over the state; it’s not like Mt. Blue is unique there.”

The ultimate goal is to support student and community learning through world languages and to bring world language back to RSU 9 schools. Maine is part of the initiative of the Seal of Biliteracy, and passing the standardized test at intermediate proficiency allows some students to get university credit, depending on the university.

One of the biggest supporters of the program, and a frequent host for international students, Michelle White, has also opened up regarding her own experiential learning opportunity.

“My family has hosted four full school year students. Each student was from a different country and each student was different. Each student has had a different experience while here with us,” White said. “Our first was a 15 year old girl from Kyrgyzstan. She is the reason I love hosting. Before she came I had this belief that our lifestyle was the only way to be. She taught us that our lifestyles were very similar but the differences gave us a new way of viewing the world.”

White described hosting a boy from Spain and learning about how dedicated Spanish people are to their families. Her family hosted a boy from Germany who taught them a lot about German cuisine, and that they could still have a lot of fun during the pandemic. She also described her current student guest, a boy from mexico.

“He is probably the most different from us than all our students have been. Through this he has taught us how to accept the differences and celebrate them. He has helped me learn a few more phrases in Spanish and now see the beauty in the Day of the Dead,” White said. “We welcomed each one as a stranger and had each one leave us a member of our family. Each became one of our children. We have shared not only our home but also our unconditional love for them.”

The International Program is currently seeking host families for students interested in placement at Mt. Blue in the fall. The criteria for being a host family involves a clean background check, some extra space and a welcoming environment with families that want to be involved.

“It’s usually very successful, but the family has to be very flexible and the student has to be flexible because they’re going to be learning about different ways of doing things. It’s about being open,” Dalrymple said. “We look for the students to stay with a loving family in a safe environment.”

Anyone interested in learning more or hosting can call the ISP program director at 207-778-3561.

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