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Student of the Month

Steve

Steve was chosen as the AHLI Student of the Month for his growth and involvement in school.

Steve is in 9th grade at Peoria Christian School, where he is involved in soccer, basketball, and the praise band. He is always eager to help those around him. He keeps a positive attitude even through challenges. We are proud of you Steve! Keep up the great work!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving!

Enjoy these facts about Thanksgiving! Maybe even surprise your friends and family with this trivia at the dinner table tomorrow. 

1. When was the first Thanksgiving celebrated? 

In 1621, a 3-day feast was held for 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. History records that only 5 women were present. This celebration sealed a treaty between the two groups for the next 50 years. 

2. What food was not at the first Thanksgiving? 

Turkey! Native Americans and colonists most likely shared a meal of venison, duck, lobster, seal and goose, with sides of pumpkin and cranberries. 

3. How many turkeys are prepared and eaten each Thanksgiving? 

46 million! 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving. 22 million people will eat turkey on Christmas too. 

4. What is a Turkey Pardon? 

In 1989, President George H. Bush pardoned the first turkey before Thanksgiving at the White House, when the 50 lb. bird “looked a little nervous.” The big bird went on to live a full, long life after being excused from being on the dinner table. Every president since then has pardoned a turkey, with some being sent to live at Disney World! 

5. Do turkeys actually gobble? 

Only male turkeys make a gobble, gobble sound. Female turkeys cackle. 

6. How many calls does the Butterball Turkey Hotline receive each Thanksgiving? 

The Butterball hotline is a free phone number people can call to ask questions about how to prepare turkey. Each year, 100,000 calls are answered about how to prepare, stuff, and cook the bird. The Butterball company also now accepts text message questions as well at Thanksgiving time. 

7. Do other countries celebrate Thanksgiving? 

Yes, Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving, but it is always the second Monday in October. In the U.S., Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November. 

8. What is the most popular dessert to eat on Thanksgiving? 

Each year, 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten for dessert at the end of Thanksgiving dinner. 

9. What professional sport is always played on Thanksgiving? 

NFL football always has games played on this holiday. The Detroit Lions have played every Thanksgiving Day, except during World War II. In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys joined in on playing on Thanksgiving, and has played every year since then, except for 1975 and 1977. 

10. Which president made Thanksgiving a national holiday? 

President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863. Sara Hale, who wrote the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” wrote letters to presidents for 17 years requesting a National Day of Thankfulness. 

We hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Students, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me what you are looking forward to on Thanksgiving!

When Homesickness Hits Hard! 

As we approach the end of October, the exciting newness of living in America may be wearing off. Homesickness may be settling in, causing you feelings of loneliness and sadness. Homesickness is the intense feeling of missing one’s home, which can include family, culture, food, language, and even pets. It can cause anxiety and sadness because of being disconnected from the familiar.  

Longing for home is a normal part of cultural adjustment. Adapting to a new “home” does not come quickly and takes time to settle in. Learning how to cope in an unfamiliar environment is an important life skill that will be a benefit as you make moves and transitions later in life. Remember you are not alone in what you are experiencing.  

When struggling with homesickness, you will start to think about how good and comfortable your life at home was. It is easy to reflect on all the positive things you left behind when you got on that plane. Life in your new home may be different than you expected, and not as fun as you had hoped. You might be tempted to compare which culture is better. It is also easy to withdraw from others and spend time alone in your room.  

But let’s look at healthy ways to work through homesickness: 

  1. Limit the amount of time you spend talking on the phone with family and friends back home. This may seem the opposite of what you think will help. It is important to stay in touch with friends, but too much time keeps you from developing new relationships. Emailing family can be better than spending hours on the phone, which keeps you from building a relationship with your host family. 
  2. Create an “Exploration List.” Do a little research and see what interesting places you can discover in your new town….it may be restaurants, historical buildings, parks, or cultural locations. Ask your host family to help you check things off your list.  
  3. Keep a journal. Writing down your feelings and experiences helps you process your emotions. In a journal, you can be honest with how things are going, but you can also include what is going well, so you can remember when there are difficult days. 
  4. Get outside! America is full of beautiful places with lots of nature and green spaces. If writing in a journal is not interesting to you, go outside and make a photo log of your community. All of our phones have excellent quality cameras that you can use to capture the beauty around you.
  5. Get moving! Go for a walk, ride a bike, visit a gym, take an exercise class- there are lots of ways to get exercise that keeps your body and mind healthy. Research has shown that regular exercise releases a chemical in the brain that causes happiness.  
  6. Take a risk! Taking risks is scary, but can have big benefits in helping you adjust faster to your new home. Join a club or sport at school. Talk to someone new on the school bus. Volunteer to serve at church or in your community. Cook a traditional meal for your host family. There are lots of ways you can try new things and make new friends!
  7. Talk to someone you trust. When you are feeling sad about not being home, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts with your friends or AHLI Coordinator. Even if they have not experienced the same thing, they can be a support just by listening.

Remember that home will still be there when you return. Embrace your current situation as an opportunity to learn and experience new things. With time, the feelings of homesickness come less frequently. Trust the adjustment process, and you will start to become acclimated to your host family, school, and community.  

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Seniors, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me your favorite high school memory!

Welcome Students

“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!

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Seniors, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me your favorite high school memory!

Toward the Finish Line

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. 

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English Proverbs

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. 

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Reach out to me on WeChat to tell me a proverb you’ve heard before!

American Spring Holidays

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.

Watch the Because of Him video for another perspective on Easter.

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Reach out to me on WeChat and let me know an April Fools prank you’ve heard of.

How to Improve Your GPA

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.

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Would you reach out to me on WeChat and let me know what your plans are for improving your GPA?

Preparing for the SAT and ACT

Taking the SAT or the ACT for College Admissions?

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.

Scoring Differences:

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. 

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Reach out to me on WeChat and let me know how you’re preparing for the ACT, SAT, or both.

Jesus Vs. Santa Claus

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.

Sincerely,

Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

(adapted from 3 Tips for sharing Jesus with others this Christmas; Adam Ramsey, 11/22/2017)

Reach out to me on WeChat and let me know what Christmas plans you have!
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