The Saudi Arabian students have added a new cultural dimension in their short time at ACG Sunderland.
ACG Sunderland has been fortunate to welcome a cohort of students who have joined the school this year for three terms from their home country of Saudi Arabia.
The 17 students are enrolled in classes from preschool through to Year 11. As well as a full academic timetable they have fully embraced the extracurricular life of the school, from music, art and sciences to swimming and athletics carnivals and interschool groups.
Lana Alturkestani, in Year 11, said her parents had found ACG after a long search for a good school in New Zealand, and had been motivated by the school’s approach to learning and internationally recognised programs.
She said her experience had been ‘unforgettable’.
“My first day was alarming. I didn’t know anything about how things worked, everything was different. Students around the school helped me out and showed me how things were done. I made new and great friends.”
Lana initially started in Year 10, but was moved up to Year 11.
“It was hard to achieve good marks because I’d missed an entire term, but teachers were really helpful and explained things I missed,“ she said.
ESOL teacher Dr Gregory Olsen said the students had added a new cultural dimension in their short time at the school.
“They have brought new perspectives to class discussions and new dishes to shared lunches. Some faced a shock in moving from an Arabic language to an English language context, but they will return home considerably more fluent than they came.”
The school was benefiting hugely from the students’ presence, said Enrolment Manager Rebekah Hanrahan.
“It broadens our students’ geography and knowledge, and affords them a small taste of Saudi Arabia’s culture in their own backyard,” she said.
“There are now friendships which, due to the 15,000 kilometres between our countries, would never have come about otherwise. These students’ parents are in New Zealand to learn and it’s really apparent that the children have the same attitude. They are keen to sharpen their English skills, make new friends and discover this beautiful country.”
She said coming to a new country with a different language and culture isn’t an easy thing for young people to do.
“I have been surprised by how happy and resilient the group is. They have just jumped right in and they are always smiling.”