WACO—Throughout the years, parochial Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School has welcomed students from near and far – more than the average school.
Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School’s student population includes 15 international students, six of them being seniors – a total relatively high considering the parochial school’s domestic student population of 66. “I’d love to take more if I could,” said Skip Bremer, NELHS Administrator, citing rules that prevent the school from doing so. “We get a chance to share our culture with them – and our faith.”
Not just any school can have the opportunity to admit international students, said Campus Pastor Kevin Stellick, who works closely with NELHS’s international students. “The school has to be vetted by the government.” Both school and prospective international students are tasked with completing forms and other paperwork to be educated in the United States. Stellick said students matriculating in NELHS typically have F-1 visas. An F-1 Visa designates the holder as an academic student; the recipient can enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited educational institution, including high schools, colleges and language training programs.
The school goes through different agencies to find students, who have come from countries like Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam and Rwanda.
Bremer said the school helps its students from afar adjust to life in the United States – including Nebraska. “We try to do things on weekends; this spring we want to go take them to see the cranes.” Bremer said there are also American-style cookouts, and ways for the students to branch out into local goings-on. “What’s nice here is that this is a very welcoming community, accepting kids of different cultures,” he said.
“We try to get them involved as much as possible,” Bremer said.
“People are very friendly to us; it makes it much easier,” said NELHS student Dat T. Le. Like many of his fellow students, Le is involved in extracurricular activities. Fellow NELHS international student Mary Lin is even exercising her English skills on the school’s speech team.
“If you want to fit in, you can,” Le said, adding “[Or] you can be as closed up as you want to.”
International student Victor Zhang had this advice for all students – and Americans: “Be respectful – take care of each other; try to accept everyone.”
Being an international student isn’t all BBQ’s and cranes, however. There are varying levels of English fluency among international students. “It’s really varied,” Bremer said. “You have some who are fluent -- you have some that are completely opposite.” The school offers education opportunities for its students to hone their English skills, including English Language Learner (ELL) classes, and specialized Bible information classes.
“Some of the kids don’t know what they don’t know,” Stellick pointed out.
Having so many international students from so many different countries can provide teaching challenges, but Bremer said NELHS staff is up for those challenges. “It takes time and patience with the teachers,” he said.
Being away from home and adjusting to a totally different culture can take time and patience as well; it isn’t always easy for both student and community learn about one another. There are tough times for some students. “Holidays we don’t have anywhere to go,” Le said. Other NELHS international students also voiced having trouble finding someplace to stay during holidays.
Nonetheless, students seem to stay positive, Le offering the advice, “Care about each other; be nice to each other.”