The Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire performs in Hanoi, Vietnam to mark the 20th anniversary of US-Vietnam ties in 2015. Image: Phillips Exeter Academy.

New England Boarding Schools Hit the Books in Asia

ASEAN Korea China Japan The Mekong

In honor of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam in early March, Phillips Exeter Academy, a boarding school in Exeter, New Hampshire (NH), sent its Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra to Hanoi, Vietnam to perform a medley of US and Vietnamese songs for locals and visitors. The New England region, which includes the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, is well-known for its prestigious boarding schools. Housing students from the United States and abroad, these schools provide a specialized education that is both immersive and eye-opening. As the Asia-Pacific region has grown in importance, so too has the emphasis these schools place on Asia.

Students at all levels have become increasingly interested in studying abroad in Asia to better master languages and understand cultures. One such study abroad program that many of the boarding schools participate in is the School Year Abroad (SYA) program, the only high school study abroad program that requires students to live with a host family for an entire academic year to work on their language skills. Among the boarding schools that participate in the SYA program in Beijing, China are Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts (MA); the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut (CT); the Phillips Exeter Academy (NH); St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH; the Taft School in Watertown, CT; the Westminster School in Simsbury, CT; and the Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, MA.

Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT, is also part of SYA’s China program and opened a Chinese Research Center in January 2015 to meet the demand of its students’ thirst for knowledge about China. Similarly, Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, MA, sent a delegation of students to Shanghai, China, in early March to celebrate 100 years of relations. Andover’s newest partnerships began in 2011 with three Chinese high schools that send delegations to meet with Andover students every summer in Kunming, China for a program focusing on water conservation and language immersion.

In addition to affiliations with nationwide programs, New England boarding schools also have individual partnerships with Asian countries and universities. The Bement School in Deerfield, MA has an established relationship with Beijing, China’s Xu Beihong Academy, in which students learn about each other’s languages and culture through letter exchanges and chances to visit each other’s schools. Since 2009, when it became one of the first two US high schools permitted to offer an American high school program in China, the Lyndon Institute in Lyndon Center, Vermont, has hosted students from Shaoxing, Heifei, and Fuzhou, China, every summer. Every summer since 1992, Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, NH, has hosted high school graduates from Thailand for an 11-week summer program to help them prepare for studying in American classrooms during their postgraduate studies. In 2014, St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont, celebrated 25 years of hosting 30 students annually from the Kaijo Gakuen School in Tokyo, Japan, for 10-day trips. September 2015 will mark another historic event for St. Johnsbury when it opens an international school in South Korea’s Jeju Global Education City, the first American secondary school to do so.

Sarah Batiuk is the Event Coordinator and a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.