Advisor’s Angle: All Americans Live in Mansions

Janel Cook 2017

By Student and Host Family Advisor Janel Cook

A stereotype is defined as a non-factual assumption about individuals or a group of people. Stereotypes can be positive or negative and can pertain to race, religion, gender, occupation, age, culture, and more.

Everyone around the world holds stereotypes to some degree. Some are conscious and some are subconscious. Many factors influence stereotypical thinking, including: culture, communities, religion, advertising, movies, TV Shows, music, celebrities, news, etc.

For example, some commonly held stereotypes about Americans are that we are loud and arrogant, we eat a lot of fast food (particularly McDonald’s and pizza), and everything in the U.S. is large compared to other countries (i.e. houses, streets, cars, yards, food portions, and people).

Pop Culture Collage

St. Paul Prep students are influenced by American pop culture well before they arrive on program. They have probably watched American films or TV shows, listened to American music, and read about American celebrities and/or politics. That exposure has most likely influenced their ideas of the United States as a whole.

One of our goals is to foster international understanding between cultures. Every student who decides to participate in one of our programs is deciding to live in the U.S., which means they will come face-to-face with the reality of life in the U.S., and therefore, with any stereotypes that they hold about Americans and the United States of America.

Host Families are in the same position. They volunteer to host a student from a specific country. The student arrives and perhaps it is different than expected. Ultimately, both sides are faced with the realities of each other and must learn to allow one another to be who they are as individuals. Sometimes reaching full cultural understanding takes a while, depending on how strongly assumptions are held by each party.

Cultural exchange is a wonderful opportunity for students, Host Families, and SPP staff to challenge what we think is true, which is an important factor in breaking down stereotypes. Through these experiences, we grow more knowledgeable to the realities of cultural exchange. What an enriching experience to share with one another!

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What’s Your Specialty?

One big reason students choose St. Paul Prep is the opportunity to earn an American high school diploma, which makes acceptance to an American university that much easier. At SPP, we take things one step further.

Our students have the opportunity to choose a specialized diploma, meaning students take classes in a specific area. At SPP, we offer STEM, Visual Arts, Global Leadership, and International Business specialized programs. Below is a breakdown of what students can expect from each field of study.

STEM

 

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Want to master your critical thinking and problem solving skills? Already an expert in these areas? Then our STEM option is for you! This rigorous course of study will prepare students to succeed in a 21st century workforce, at college and beyond!

Featuring advanced classes in math, science, engineering, and technology, this diploma option is open to all students.

International Business

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This diploma specialization introduces students to the complexities and relationships between different countries’ political, economic, and business practices and policies. Courses in this diploma path look at everything from the impact of international business to ethics to import/exports.

The curriculum prepares students for university-level business courses, and gives our students a leg-up on the highly competitive and constantly changing global economic environment.

Visual Arts

 

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Create products with a purpose with the Visual Arts diploma specialization. Featuring a studio, kiln, local and national art competitions, art lab, and an expansive art curriculum, our art program is a standout in the established art community in downtown St. Paul.

Open to students of all skill levels, this option assists students in preparing an art portfolio, help students discover new art mediums, and learn the history and techniques of different art forms.

Global Leadership

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The newest specialized diploma, the Global Leadership option provides students with an advanced look at oral and written language, cultural understanding, and the commonalities and differences throughout various cultures of the world.

This option prepares students for further studies at the university level in majors such as International Relations, Diplomacy, Education, and more. The Global Leadership special diploma gives students a head start on success in a global society.

One Clean Field Trip

Why are these students dressed like this?

Nanotechnology.

Last week, SPP Summer School students toured the Nanotechnology Lab at University of Minnesota, which required that everyone wear protective suits. The tour was led by Professor James Marti. He showed them how the lab creates smaller and smaller microchips for our endless array of electronic devices.

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After a brief talk with Dr. Marti, it was time to suit up!

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As Mr. Wiggin put it, “(The suits) are to protect the work, not the students!”

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Since the beginning of July, we’ve had students participating in our Summer School, which is a partnership with Nacel Open Door’s Short Term Program. Many of the students are from groups from France and Taiwan, though we have a few SPP students in the mix as well.

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Want to see what else the Summer School Program has been up to? Read about it here, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Summer STEMmin’

While our regular student body is off exploring every nook and cranny of the planet and spending the summer with their families, there’s still plenty happening around the halls and classrooms of St. Paul Preparatory School.

During the month of July, we’ve got students from Taiwan and France taking part in a Summer School Program at SPP as part of Nacel Open Door’s Short Term Program. Students have been experimenting in the lab, learning in the classroom, and taking part in field trips around the Twin Cities.

Noodle Towers

One of the first lab challenges of the STEM class was building towers out of noodles in order to hold up a single, fat marshmallow. Students could use tape, but couldn’t anchor their towers to the table. The highest tower was over 100 centimeters!

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Interstate State Park

Located just 49 miles from downtown St. Paul, this state park is known for it’s “potholes” formed by glacial meltwater at the end of the last Ice Age, along what is now known as the St. Croix River.

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Rollercoasters

Back in the lab, students had to make a “rollercoaster” out of foam tubing, marbles, and duct tape, with requirements that the coaster have one loop-de-loop and a second hill. Gravity and physics won the day!

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SPP Journalism: Students Dislike American Food

SPP Students give American food Two Thumbs DOWN

These articles were written by St. Paul Prep’s Journalism class.

SPP students do not like American food, because of its awful taste and excessive use of chemicals, according to the interviews conducted at SPP.

Although SPP students vary in cultures, political views, and religions, they have one opinion in common: American food seems unhealthy and not as tasty.

Fabrizio F., a junior from Venezuela, seems to prove that point.

“The first thing I think about American food is not very good, very unhealthy, and not very well prepared,” he stated. “It usually comes from a different culture also. It’s usually trashy food like hamburgers.”

Jeanne A., a senior from France, listed the multiple ways that American food is different from food in France.

“Serving size, which in America is so much different [bigger], GMOs are illegal in France; the quality of the food because meat here is not that good and not sustainable or anything,” she concluded. “We eat way more veggies and bread, but good bread, not the smushy bread that is nice looking for two months.”

Wuttikorn “March” K., a senior from Thailand, made it clear that chefs in his country prepare food in diverse ways, and something like that does not exist in the United States.

“They are a lot of differences. We use herbs, we use spices from India, and China and India influence Thai food,” he claimed. “We use a lot of seafood stuff that makes it kind of a little fishy, but it just tastes the best.”

Interestingly, American SPP students have the same view on American food. Hayla O., a junior from the United States, completely does not really enjoy it, so she finds different foods to consume.

“I eat a lot of Colombian and Mexican food. I love Thai and Chinese food!” she confirmed.

Living away from their families and having a new experience with regional food makes SPP students miss home more.

“I miss my food more than my family, to be honest,” March lamented.

Guest Blogger Aleksander: Tabula Rasa Part 2

IMG_1513I hope you’re all familiar with the term “butterfly effect.” If not, it is a concept that theorizes how small causes can have large effects, such as the flap of the wings of a butterfly in Rio de Janeiro changing the weather in Chicago. Let that sink in for a moment.

This post will be a rather positive example of this theory. I want to tell you all how the trip to the USA saved my life. Literally, not just figuratively.

Test day

The air in the room was very dense. We sat at tables and looked at each other in terror. “What happens next?” – everyone thought.

It’s not an excerpt from a horror book. It’s simply an accurate description of how the test day went down. It was the day when we were given the tests to asses our knowledge of math, English, etc. I remember that very first day I met the person who altered my life: Margaux. Long story short, thanks to her I have identified depression, anxiety, and OCD in myself. Now, three years down the road, I am in the middle of therapy, that I’ve started last year.

What would have happened if I wouldn’t have met her in America? Or rather – what would have happened if I would not have talked to the representative of the American Embassy in Poland? I could have been dead by now. While of course, that’s just my interpretation, many other bad things could have happened, too.

What else saved me? The Mobile Jazz Project. This project changed my life. Let me explain:

It is a project where young people interested in making and/or playing music (not necessarily talented; of course there were some brilliant musicians, but talent was not necessary) could do what they wanted to do – transform their thoughts into language understood by everyone on earth (music). Every week we listened to a short musical performance. Then there was a time for questions for the performing artist/band. After that, people could split into dedicated groups. I remember that I was in a “tech” group which created music from scratch in Pro Tools. At the end, I recorded my take on “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. I was very inspired by Stevie Wonder’s pop/funky sounds and Jimmy Ray Vaughn’s cover of the song, so I decided to combine these two styles.

Right now, in my bedroom, I have a MIDI keyboard, an electric guitar ,and Ableton Live installed on my PC. Music was an escape during my dark days. If you want to hear some of my jams, go to my soundcloud profile. It also led me to publish my pictures on the internet. If you want to see some of them, go to my society6 profile. The Mobile Jazz Project showed me that if I want, I can be an artist, too. It’s up to me. I actually liked the idea of becoming a music producer so much that I went on a tour of a college where I could get MA in music production. I loved everything except for the price. So I am studying in Warsaw instead. That’s another one of these things I still regret.

I wish you actually realized how different the teachers I met in SPP were from my teachers in Poland. Teachers in Poland would MOSTLY (not all) destroy your grades. They would bomb you with everything until you just couldn’t take it anymore. The teachers at SPP were so much different. They encourage you to learn. They praise you when you have done a good job. Ms. Larson showed me that math can be bearable. Ms. Stormont showed me that I also can be a good writer. Ms. Redding showed me that democracy in a classroom works.

If you are going to get out one thing out of this article, then let it be this: if you feel that you need a change, go and make it happen.

A Step Forward

fullsizerender-8By current SPP student Valeria from Venezuela

Since 8th grade, I’ve been looking forward to graduation day; to finally step out of school and enter college; to study things I care about, and to surpass the limitations I was given in my previous schools. However, in senior year I felt different.

“You’re too immature, Valeria. Too immature, too young, and too dependent on your parents for you to leave to college,” a little voice whispered inside my head.

During the first two months of my stay in St. Paul, I was struck with the realization I was not prepared to enter this new phase of my life. It all started at the beginning of the first semester last fall. The story goes a little something like this:

I was clueless as to what university I wanted to go to, nostalgic of my family and culture, out of my elements in class, dispirited in my only A.P course, and consumed by preoccupation over standardized testing for colleges. The weight of my responsibilities kept sinking me to the bottom as I drowned on my own. I had never struggled in my life without having someone to make it better, as I grew up in a collectivist culture. For quite a while, I thought that I had lost that here, until one day as I sat alone studying for the SAT, one of my teachers took the initiative to help me out a little. Every day that I sat down with him, I sighed of relief; his sincere willingness to help me without receiving anything in return was heart-warming. His advice not only brought tranquility to my soul, but gave me strength to stay persistent. I was no longer alone.

In addition, later on Vicky came into my life. I had gone to our school counselor Ms. Hill several times, however what I wanted her to do for me would have required the use of too much of her time, considering that she had to guide 63 other seniors (some that might be even more lost than me in such a labyrinth).

Ms. Hill, being the consummate professional that she is, sensed I was lost at sea, and so she reined me in back to shore. She gave me a small, fairly mundane, contact card with the name “Vicky” sprawled in simple black lettering (little did I know the impact that small, mundane card would have on my college search). Vicky is a former SPP counselor and Advanced English Composition teacher who left her teaching job for a job as a lawyer; still, she spends her free time helping students in my situation.

I still had a sea of colleges to pick and choose from, and yet the question remained, where would I really fit in? Which one would have the best broadcast journalism program? Which one would have the biggest diversity of cultures? Which one this? Which one that? Which one? Vicky helped me figure all this out by making me form my own conclusions.

I had to re-start my college search, only this time with her there, over my shoulder guiding me. To be frank, I was irritated that I’d have to start the search process all over again from scratch, but looking back it was probably the best thing that I could have done. When I was on my own, I let my own bias for big name schools get in the way of what I was really looking for, and began to apply to colleges that offered a curriculum I did not even want or would not even be helpful for my desired career.

Can you imagine? Going to a college I don’t like, far away from my family and home (which was a sacrifice I guess I was willing to make) and coping with the stress of college life who knows how. I was well on my way to imploding because of how unprepared I was for college, the concept of adult independence was still new to me and I wouldn’t have an altruistic teacher to guide me anymore. Thanks to Vicky, all the self-destruction was spared.

Vicky also made me understand the one thing that kept on adding weight on my shoulders. This whole time, I had been looking for some sort of emotional shelter within my Host Family and I failed in my attempts. I told Vicky the story of how I couldn’t find emotional comfort with them, and she said, “Valeria, you cannot go to a hardware store and expect to buy raisins, you have to go to a grocery store for that. What you are looking for is something they might not be able to provide you with, because they are simply not used to it. There will be other people, like your teacher, that will make your experience unique and fascinating, leaving a mark in your heart.”

And she was right, I was looking in the wrong places. My Host Family had been great, but they were not the ones that would give me the affection and support I craved. Emotionally, the burden was off my back as I stopped making my Host Family into something they were not: my actual family or any Venezuelan. I finally understood I couldn’t force them to act like my culture does.

A month later, I was in Ashburn, Virginia spending Christmas with my family and finally finishing my college applications. All the stress was gone, but something was still aching. Was I really satisfied with my decisions?…I think I wasn’t.

I left my father’s family living in Ashburn for a few days to visit my mother’s sister in Washington D.C. Her name is Carmen Beatriz, but I always called her Aunty Triz. I hadn’t seen her in years because Venezuela’s situation forced her (along with many other relatives and friends) to leave me. We had a great time together, but the clock was ticking and it was time for me to go back to Ashburn.

As we were getting closer and closer to Ashburn, anxiety kept taking over me and when I had to say goodbye I shattered. That’s what had been bugging me this whole time. Ever since September all the way to that cold night in December, I realized I was unsatisfied because I will never be able to live in peace If I am away from the warm people I love and the culture that shaped every aspect of my personality. Although the Universities I applied to were the best options when it came to the education they would provide; wasn’t my personal happiness a huge factor to consider as well? I never thought about it because I did not think it was a thing that would bother me. I had always been a happy person, but I wasn’t in the culture that I’m from; the one that truly brings me internal peace and enamors me more each day of my existence.

That night was a massive paradox to me, I was broken and cured. It cleared my blurred vision and I realized what I’d wanted this whole time: great education near my family. What a better place for that than Colombia? The most similar country to Venezuela that offers me infinite opportunities and a near location to my precious home. Today, I see clearly what I want, and feel immensely grateful for my teacher, who will always have a place in my heart, Vicky, and my school SPP. Without them I would have made the wrong decisions and postponed my happiness and inner serenity. Moreover, SPP, its passionate staff, and my experience with them taught me how to manage my time, control stress, work hard independently, but most importantly prepare me for the next phase of my life.