A group of 18 teachers, administrators and staff members from Indian Springs School spent a week abroad this summer in an effort to make Asian students feel more at home at the school in North Shelby.
The group traveled to South Korea and China June 14-22 to learn more about Asian society, culture and history and to visit with about 160 ISS parents, alumni and students in order to gain a deeper understanding of the customs and needs of the school’s Asian students, school officials said.
Part of an intercultural exchange and professional development initiative provided by AJIN USA, an automotive manufacturing facility that supplies parts to Kia and Hyundai from its Chambers County plant, the nine-day trip gave ISS educators an opportunity to explore the traditions, foods, sights, history and people of Seoul, Daegu and Busan, South Korea, and Shanghai, China.
The exchange program was created for just this purpose by AJIN USA CEO Sea Jung Ho, whose son attends Indian Springs School.
“This incredible trip helped us better understand our Korean and Chinese students and get to know their families,” ISS Director Gareth Vaughan said. “Because of our invaluable exposure to their beautiful cities and countryside, customs, culture and foods, we have all come to a better appreciation of this distinctive part of our school community.”
Each year, about 20-25 South Korean and Chinese students make up roughly a third of Indian Springs School’s boarding community. In the 2013-2014 school year, ISS admitted 277 students from 10 countries and 11 states.
“The customs of our Asian students are so different from our own,” said Brian Rodgers, dean of residential life at ISS. “As in the United States, there is rich regional diversity as well. Seeing where and how our Korean and Chinese students live has given us a greater appreciation of the shift they experience when they come to school at Indian Springs.”
Asian alumni, parents and students traveled for up to four hours to welcome ISS teachers during their visits to Seoul and Shanghai. ISS faculty members and administrators also visited with incoming students and their parents and met Korean TV and film star Lee Jung Gil.
“Our Korean and Chinese families are an important part of Indian Springs’ incredible, diverse community,” Vaughan said. “We are grateful and delighted to have had the chance to spend time with them, learn from them and thank them for helping to bring our two worlds together, and we are excited to incorporate meaningful customs, greetings and foods into our culturally rich school life.”
AJIN USA, which opened its Chambers County facility in 2008, has supported numerous intercultural exchanges and internships for educators and professionals in other fields.
Ho says he believes these types of opportunities strengthen interpersonal connections and lead to effective teaching and learning and to improved understanding between residents of the United States and Asia.
Indian Springs School is located near the intersection of I-65 and I-459 just south of Birmingham. Founded in 1952, the school seeks to develop in students a love of learning, a sense of integrity and moral courage and an ethic of participatory citizenship.
For more information, visit www.indiansprings.org.