Wooster School: My First Trip to China, A Reflection by Will Sacco

August 1, 2023

When asked by Wooster’s Head of School, Matt Byrnes, if I would be interested in traveling to China to represent Wooster School with our Connecticut-based international student homestay and recruitment partner, Apex International Education Partners (APEX), I responded with a resounding yes! After that, I dusted off my rigid, unused passport and spent weeks preparing for an opportunity of a lifetime. I felt a mix of emotions during those weeks: exhilaration and excitement for a new adventure, urgency and anxiety of needing to be prepared in a short amount of time, and nervousness of traveling with people I have never met.

It didn’t take long for me to realize those nerves and anxieties were, quite frankly, unnecessary. The other Americans I traveled with started as strangers and quickly became friends. Our small group included me, APEX’s President David “the Boss” Guerrera (a nickname coined during the trip by our APEX China staff), and Maricele Riemann from Watkinson School. In addition, we were welcomed by an exquisite team who work for APEX in China: Elva, Wendy, Stella, and Jannie. This crew was tasked with keeping us up-to-date on our itinerary for all 10 days, ordering food for our party (sometimes ordering enough for two parties), translating our presentations, organizing transportation, acting as tour guides on our excursions , and so much more. This team’s hospitality was remarkable, often forgoing opportunities to be with their families to support us in our endeavors. I cannot thank them enough for making this trip not only unforgettable, but also stress-free when visiting international schools and speaking with students.

While abroad, I met many Chinese students and their families. During interviews, the students showcased their talents with passions and aspirations that any U.S. school would be lucky to have. With that said, I am pleased to say we have accepted some of those students, and I cannot wait to see them blossom with all the opportunities provided at Wooster School.

Our institution benefits greatly from our international students, as they exhibit high academic standards and courage for studying in a foreign country. I am constantly impressed with the integrity of these students, being so far away from their families and immersing in American language and culture. This trip allowed me a perspective of what it must feel like to be a foreign student in the U.S. And I have to say…it’s a lot of work learning a different language and adjusting to a foreign country’s customs.

Aside from international students and their families, recognition has to go to APEX’s China staff that spend countless hours and efforts arranging the students’ time abroad. They vet a student’s candidacy, assist with additional weekend classes in English to improve their speech, prepare students for their proficiency exams (TOEFL, DuoLingo, etc.), and guide them through the APEX application and interview processes. From beginning to end, every APEX staff member’s goal is to find the best placement for the students; they want to find a place where the students thrive and maintain longevity throughout their education. I resonate with that wholeheartedly, as that is the same goal I have when bringing new families into Wooster School. It’s refreshing to recognize that school administrators from different parts of the world share a common philosophy in academic success.

Meeting students and families may have been the main reason for the trip, but playing tourist was a fortunate bonus. I was in awe of the ancient relics, statues, and monuments spread throughout modern-day China. I savored every bite of each fish, noodle, and dessert that was beyond foreign to me. And never in my life had I thought I would bike past Tiananmen Square, look upon the Forbidden City, pray for prosperity in Fuzhou’s Seven Alleys, explore Beijing’s Silk Market, climb and stand atop the Great Wall (I can scratch that off my bucket list!), plus many more moments I never dreamed of experiencing. Needless to say, this trip exceeded expectations. I cannot thank APEX enough for allowing me to be a part of such an enriching and enthralling experience. From start to finish, they have been an excellent partner and have helped immensely to make our trip to and from China smooth and memorable. Also, a huge thank you to Wooster School, Matt Byrnes, and my co-workers, whose work and coverage allowed me to be away while the Admissions office continued to thrive.

If you are a Chinese student or parent looking for a school in the U.S., please do not hesitate to reach out to me or Wooster’s International Student Coordinator, Miranda Xia, miranda.xia@woosterschool.org. Furthermore, Wooster School is always welcoming new students from China and if you have space in your home and in your life for an international student from China arriving this fall, please reach out to APEX. Not only do you receive a stipend for hosting the student, but you will also hopefully form a lasting bond with the student, their family, and gain a broader cultural perspective. So many of Wooster’s Chinese students continue to see and stay connected with their host families after graduation. For more information, please contact APEX at info@aiepusa.com or visit www.aiepusa.com for more info.

Article Reference: Wooster School – Danbury, CT