“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23
Welcome to the start of a new school year! We are excited to have you as part of the AHLI program and look forward to finding creative ways to engage with you over the course of the academic year. As you settle into a new routine, I want to encourage you to look at the start of school as a new opportunity – to make new friends, be more diligent in your studies, try a new club, sport, or activity, or even, let go of a habit or behavior that is holding you back from achieving your goals.
Jumping into “newness” can be incredibly exciting or incredibly scary, depending on your point of view. Whether you are arriving to the U.S. as a new student or returning for your fourth year, the start of the school year is your chance to make a fresh start. All of us have an area we would like to improve in. This month can be your chance to develop, stretch yourself, and grow in these areas.
Think of starting this year with a clean slate. The Bible teaches us that God’s mercies (second chances) are new every morning. God gives us a fresh start every day, but what you do with each new day is up to you. Do not waste the chance you have been given to be kinder, put others before yourself, and seek more wisdom. No matter how big the endeavor, God will help you move forward.
A Chinese proverb says, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, and others build windmills.” How will you respond to the winds of change this year? Will you resist and hold on to past ways, or embrace new things and build a better version of yourself?
Your AHLI team, including your Director and Coordinator, wish you a great beginning of the year, and are excited to see the wonderful accomplishments you will have!
Congratulations to our 30 seniors! Whether you have been studying in the U.S. for 1 year or 4 years, you are coming to the end of this important stage of your life. Graduation is the culmination of years of challenging work, and your path is even more remarkable as you have navigated through it in a different culture and second language.
The Tour de France is a 23-day, multi-stage bicycle competition covering 3,500 kilometers. Each stage is 1 day long and consists of an average of 170 kilometers (about 105.63 mi). There are 6 flat stages, 7 hilly stages, and 6 mountain stages. For some of you, high school has been “flat” and relatively easy, while for others, school has been like climbing a mountain. For the majority, high school has been a combination of high moments and low moments, culminating this month with graduation.
As we approach the end of April, you may hear someone say, “April showers brings May flowers.” Have you heard this saying before? On the surface, it talks about the rainy season of April giving way to the blooming of spring flowers. In our lives, this also means that difficult times or hardship bring better things, such as happiness. Proverbs are common sayings that also offer life advice. Let’s look at some other popular proverbs.
Birds of a feather flock together: People who are alike or similar spend time together.
Actions speak louder than words: What you do is more important than what you say.
A picture is worth a thousand words: An image can tell a story better than many words.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you: Don’t hurt or anger the person who is helping you!
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: Don’t criticize someone since you’re not perfect either.
The pen is mightier than the sword: If you are trying to convince someone of something, using words can be more effective than violence.
The early bird gets the worm: Those who get started early have the best chance of success.
The grass is greener on the other side: People always want what they don’t have.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease: The person who complains the most gets the help.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Don’t risk everything going after one goal or dream, or you could lose it all…. it is better to have multiple options.
Every country and culture have their own common sayings that help teach important life lessons. Even the Bible has a book called “Proverbs,” which was written almost 2,700 years ago by a wise King, who gave us more than 900 proverbs to help us to live our life successfully. One of my favorite sayings is Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire!” Take some time to read other “pearls of wisdom” found in Proverbs in the Bible.
Spring, which officially begins on Sunday, March 20th is full of interesting and important holidays.
This week was the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish holiday that celebrates the patron (founding) saint of Ireland. Patrick, at age 16, was kidnapped from Roman Britain in the late 4th century and taken to Ireland as a slave. After he escaped, he remained in Ireland and preached Christianity and started many churches and schools. Every March 17, the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death, the day is celebrated with parades and feasts, especially in Irish-American communities.
A fun holiday is on April 1st, also known as April Fools’ Day. On this day only, harmless pranks or tricks are played on friends, family members, or even strangers. April Fools is celebrated in 11 countries, across Europe and as far away as India and Brazil. After the prank is completed, the prankster yells, “April Fools!” letting them know it was just a joke. Perhaps you and a friend can join in on the April Fools fun in two weeks!
Sunday, April 22 is the Christian religious holiday of Easter celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. This holiday actually starts 3 days before on Friday, also known as Good Friday, which is remembering the day Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross as told in the Bible. The Bible is God’s love letter to humans about his plan from the creation of the world to sending His Son to earth to live a perfect life and die in place of people and then rise again for eternity. Christians celebrate Easter (also known as Resurrection Sunday) as the day Jesus rose from the dead.
These days, Easter is full of pictures of baby rabbits and chicks, along with the giving of candy. Coloring hard boil eggs with bright colored dye is another modern tradition of Easter, as well as hunting for Easter eggs outside. Many of these Easter items come from pagan (non-religious) origins representing new life that comes in Spring. Often these Easter decorations can overshadow the importance of this celebration, which is the most important holiday of the year for Christians. The resurrection of Jesus proved His claim that He is the Son of God. Easter is for remembering God’s power of life over death. At the center of the Easter story is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This Easter, we hope you will join your host family in learning more about the resurrected Jesus.
Now that we are in the second semester of the school year, it is a good time to look at your GPA (grade point average), and determine if it is a good reflection of you as a student. Your grade point average is an important factor for college admissions, in addition to the difficulty of courses you take. A GPA can be calculated in several different ways, and can vary from state to state or school to school on the method used to calculate it. Simply, your cumulative GPA is the sum of all your course grades throughout your high school career divided by the total number of credits. Calculations can differ depending on whether your school uses “+” and “-“ with letter grades, whether they use a weighted method in which classes worth more credits factor heavier into the calculation, or if you take Advanced Placement or Honors classes.
At one time or another, you will receive a grade on your report card that you are not happy with. A poor grade will affect your GPA, but it is not the worst problem, and can be corrected with time. Improving your GPA means you will need to get higher grades in the next semester. Let’s look at several ways to improve your grades during the semester:
1) Talk to your Teacher. The best first step you can take to improve your grade is to talk with your teacher, letting him/her know you want to do better and ask for their advice. Teachers appreciate students having a conversation with them, and can offer feedback on areas for you to focus on.
2) Ask for Extra Credit. While talking to your teacher, ask if there are additional assignments you can do for extra credit in the class to help boost your grade.
3) Participate in Class. Do not be shy about speaking up and asking or answering questions in class. Many teachers give points for class participation. By engaging in discussions and being active during class time, your teacher will see that you want to do better.
4) Find a Study Group. Working together with your peers is one of the best ways to understand the class material. Make friends with your classmates so you can communicate with them when you need help completing homework. Remember that working together is not the same as copying or cheating. Collaborating with your classmates can help each of you to understand the work more clearly.
5) Get a Tutor. If you are continuing to struggle with understanding the class, it may be necessary to hire a tutor to help. It is always beneficial to have someone besides your teacher to help explain class topics and homework. Your AHLI Coordinator can help you find a tutor for any of the school classes you are struggling with the most.
With patience and effort, you will see your hard work pay off with higher grades at the end of the semester, resulting in an upward climb of your GPA. A higher GPA will improve your chances to be accepted to the college of your choice, as well as receiving scholarships.
Winter is a great time to register for standardized testing for college admissions. Due to COVID-19, many universities have waived the requirement for SAT and ACT score submission for the 2022-2023 academic year. However, not all schools have eliminated the requirement of these tests as part of their admission process for the future.
While both the SAT and ACT are similar, there are important differences between them. You can maximize your potential score by deciding which test best fits your learning style and knowledge.
Length of time to complete, without breaks:
ACT- 3 hours and 35 minutes, including optional writing section
SAT- 3 hours and 50 minutes, including optional essay
However, the ACT has more questions than the SAT and therefore requires you to move more quickly to answer each of the questions. But most importantly, neither test penalizes you for wrong answers, so if you do not know the answer, even your best guess could be right.
Subjects on test:
ACT- English/Reading, Math and Science
SAT- Reading/Writing, Math (with and without calculator)
The ACT has an English section, whereas the SAT has Writing and Language sections. The English of the ACT tests on English grammar, which includes the rules of the English (American) language. The SAT, in contrast, centers on development of language, writing and word choice (vocabulary).
Both exams require students to read passages and answer questions. However, the SAT asks questions in chronological order- first questions refer to what happens earlier in the passage. The ACT asks questions in random order.
Only the ACT has a science section. You do not need to know in-depth scientific concepts to do well, as the test relies on one’s ability to read and interpret data, charts, and graphs.
Both tests focus heavily on algebra in the math section. But unlike the SAT, the ACT includes larger sections of geometry and trigonometry. The ACT also allows you to use a calculator for all of the math sections, unlike the SAT. For the SAT, math accounts for 50% of the total score. In the ACT, math only counts for 25% of the total score.
The ACT is scored from 1-36 for each section, and averaged for a total score. The writing portion is scored between 2-12, and not counted within your total ACT score. The SAT is scored from 200-1600. For the SAT, scores are not averaged together, but rather the scores of each section are added together. The score of the optional essay is not included in the final SAT score.
How to decide which test is best for you to take?
Some students take both tests (even multiple times). But it costs money to take each test, and time to prepare. To help you know which test you may be most adept at, here is a quiz. Answer Agree or Disagree for each statement.
I am good at geometry and trigonometry.
I struggle with solving math problems without a calculator.
Science is a strength of mine.
It’s easier for me to explain my opinion than to analyze something.
I normally do poorly on math tests.
I can recall math formulas easily.
I like relying on multiple choice options for math questions.
I have no problem moving quickly and working within tight time constraints.
I struggle with finding evidence to back up my answers.
I am good at reading comprehension, even if questions are asked out of chronological order.
Count the number of Agrees and Disagrees. If you have more Agrees, then focus your time studying for the ACT. If you have mostly Disagrees, then the SAT may be better suited to your strengths. If you have an almost equal number of Agree and Disagree answers, then either test will work.
Lastly, check if the universities you are applying to do “superscoring” for the SAT and/or ACT. Superscoring allows you to combine your best test section scores each time you take the test. This will allow you to stack your scores to achieve the highest score for your admissions application.
This year many of you will celebrate Christmas with your host families. The Christmas season is a joyous time when schools close, houses are brightly decorated, and families gather together. Christmas is also the time when we hear folk stories of Santa Claus appearing from his home at the North Pole to bring gifts to all children of the world on the night of December 24. Christmas songs tell us the big, jolly man with white beard and 9 reindeer (including Rudolph, with the red shining nose) knows when we are sleeping, and when we are awake, so we better be good or he will put our name on the Naughty List. If your name goes on this list, there will be no presents for you….only black coal for Christmas.
Santa Claus is all about needing to be better, or work harder to prove yourself to be a really good little boy or girl to get the best present. But the sad thing about this story is that no one knows if they are ever really “good enough” to make Santa’s good list. Many children go to bed the night before Christmas hoping they are just good enough to get an Xbox when they wake up, or if they were like me, a real live pony (which I never got!).
There is a better story about Christmas.
The true Gift-giver is God. For God so loved the whole world, He gave His only son, Jesus so that whosoever believes in Him would not die, but have the gift of eternal life.
Whereas Santa Claus says, “Earn the gift.”
God says, “Receive my gift.”
Santa says, “If you’re good, you’ll get my love.”
God says, “Only my love can make you good.”
Santa makes a list and warns, “I’ll be checking it twice” to see if you’re still good.
But God did away with the list of requirements by sending his Son to die for our wrongs, and said, “It is finished.”
Children sing about Santa “to be good for goodness’ sake!” But because of God, we can say Jesus was good for our sake.
By living the perfect life we couldn’t live, and dying the death we deserve to die, Jesus gives us wrong-doers, who are on the naughty list, the gift of God’s love.
This Christmas, while enjoying hot chocolate, decorating cookies, and playing in the snow, take time to think about the free gift of everlasting life that is being offered to you.
November is the American Thanksgiving month…the time of the year when we give thanks for the many good things we have in our life- both the big things, like our family and the ability to study abroad and even the small things, like cell phones and great food. Being grateful has many benefits for mind, body, and soul. Let’s look at some of these advantages.
Physical Health– Grateful people have overall better health. Research has shown that the more people show gratitude, the more they participated in healthier activities resulting in better actual health. Gratitude can lead to better moods and better sleep resulting in better heart health and lower amounts of inflammation in the body.
Psychological Health– Being thankful reduces the amount of unhealthy emotions a person carries that can lead to frustration and regret. Gratitude causes the brain to produce an increase in dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter related to feelings of pleasure and reward-motivated behavior. Practically, this means a thankful mind can have a positive impact on how you feel and behave.
Empathy– Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. New research has shown that grateful people were more compassionate (more loving) because they were empathetic….they could identify with other people’s emotions. There is a benefit to us by showing empathy- we feel more connected to others.
Sleep: Spending a few minutes each day writing down what you are thankful for helps you sleep better and longer. Counting your blessings decreases your worries resulting in more restful sleep.
Self-esteem: Research has shown feeling generous to others generates positive feelings about yourself. In the same way, feeling good about yourself, also makes you want to share that goodness with others creating a positivity cycle. Being grateful also reduces social comparisons. Rather than feeling resentful towards others who have more than you, which can affect your self-esteem, thankful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
Risk of Depression: Expressing feelings of gratitude can lead to fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety symptoms. “Gratitude is the way by which we remind ourselves that not everything is bad and there are blessings we can focus on,” says Sanam Hafeez, M.D., a neuropsychologist and Columbia University faculty member. Having gratitude helps you feel motivated to achieve your goals, and achieving your goals keeps you grateful, which can protect you against depression and other mental health difficulties. Gratitude increases mental strength and resilience and can help overcome stress and trauma.
Stress Levels: Practicing thankfulness has been shown to improve emotional regulation, which is the ability to control our feelings. One study looked at participants’ heart rate before, during, and after experiencing gratitude compared to resentment. When an individual focused on things they were grateful for, their heart rates decreased- a changed associated with calmness. Also pictures of the brain show that when communicating gratitude, the part of the brain correlated with calmness was more active.
Now is a great time to start practicing thankfulness. What separates gratitude from thankfulness is intention. Gratitude is the quality of thankfulness…it’s something you intentionally choose to focus on and practice. It is more than just a feeling, but rather an action. Showing gratitude allows you to reap the benefits emotionally and physically, but also encourages us to cultivate an attitude of giving to others.
“Say thank you to the Lord for being so good, for always being so loving and kind.”
Guest Contributor: David Young, AHLI Board Director
For many of you, this is the first time you have lived away from home. And while you are still living with a family here in the United States, you are developing into independent men and women. With this maturity, comes the ability to manage your own money. Even if money is still coming from your parents, it is important to develop budgeting skills to be fiscally responsible now and in preparation for when you are living independently.
When thinking about budgeting…
Determine your available income:
Calculate your monthly spending money (the money you receive)
Divide your monthly money for your weekly income available to spend
Determine your expenses:
Calculate your monthly estimated expenses
cell phone bill
video and music streaming apps
haircuts, medications, clothes
“extras”: nails, video games, movies, restaurants
(when older, include car payment, insurance, rent, electricity, etc.)
Divide your monthly expenses to know how much you spend on average per week.
Now that you know your income and expenses monthly and weekly, you are able to closely monitor your spending.
If you pay for things with credit cards it may be easy to overspend. You must keep watch of your credit card spending just as if you were spending cash. Remember, any credit card balance not paid on the due date will cost you interest of 18% or more. This will quickly put you in debt.
Budgeting your spending takes extreme discipline. Do not spend more money than you have coming in.
When your expenses are less than your income, you will have a savings, which can be kept for unexpected future needs or a special want.
Identify the larger “want items” that you should save for, such as a new gaming system, or name brand clothes/shoes and set an amount of money each week you will put aside to save for that item.
What are the benefits of handling money well when you are young?
When you stay within your budget (using the money you have), you will be able to cover your needs and plan to purchase the items you want, as well as stay out of debt. In the U.S., your financial management is measured by a credit score, with 850 being perfect credit. Creditors will be more willing to loan money at better (lower) interest rates for cars, homes, school loans, to those with higher credit scores. Learn to think long-term…you will save yourself stress if you make smart choices now and live within your means.
AHLI is happy to welcome new and returning students to the 2021-2022 school year. As you settle into your host family and jump back into school, you may be experiencing a range of emotions from excitement to apprehension. Going into an unfamiliar situation, whether after a long time or for the first time can stir up feelings of uneasiness and anxiety. Every teenager wants to meet people like themselves and feel like they fit in. It can be easy to put a lot of energy into convincing others to think you are awesome or cool. But there is a better way to make more friends faster. Here are 6 ways to start off the year with confidence to build friendships.
While it can be difficult to smile in new situations, it’s a great ice breaker. Research tells us that people tend to “mirror” (reflect) the emotions of people they see. So if you have a positive energy, you are more likely to attract positive people around you.
Put effort into remembering a person’s name when you are introduced to them. Your name is part of your identity, and when you remember a name, you show that you are interested in them as an individual. If you call everyone “friend” or “hey you,” people will be less inclined to befriend you.
Listen to Others
Everybody appreciates being heard. While you may want to tell everyone how interesting you are, being a good friend involves listening to others. Asking questions is a fast way to get to know people and make them feel heard. Ask questions using who/what/where/when/why/how, instead of just questions that can be answered with yes or no. As you listen, you can find your similarities which is a big part of building new friendships.
Build on Common Ground
Listening is the first step of making friends, but you cannot stop there. You will need to participate in conversations, too. If you are too shy to talk or don’t want to share about yourself, then people will not want to keep engaging. Find points of common connection to build on the conversation, whether it be in areas of movies, sports, favorite class subjects, hobbies, or plans after high school.
Focus on the Few
Being popular doesn’t mean you have a hundred friends. There is a difference between being friendly and being a friend. It’s important to be friendly…say “hi” to those you pass in the hallway, smile, and look for ways to be kind. But being a friend means spending time with people and being available to listen and share. You will have a much happier school experience if you spend quality time with a few people than if you are just friendly with the whole school. Having close friends adds value to your life, and you add value to theirs. This is more priceless than 500 “friends” on Snapchat.
Don’t change who you are just to fit in. There are many types of people at school, and lots of opportunities to make friends. Be patient, and keep looking for ways to meet new students. Stay open to learning about others. Your friends don’t have to have all the same interests as you. This is what keeps life interesting. You can share new things with each other. Friends should encourage each other to be the best versions of themselves.