(Middleburg, July 4, 2014) Nine rising seniors spent the greater part of June in China on a 17-day Cultural Enrichment and Leadership Development Program designed specifically for Middleburg Academy students. The participants, along with Head of School Colley Bell and Language Department Chair Brittany Myers, visited Beijing and Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Buddhist and Taoist Temples, the Summer Palace, the 2008 Olympic Village, a folk village and the modern glamorous city of Shenzhen. They rode rickshaws and a dragon boat, enjoyed in-home and restaurant meals, explored local markets and a jade factory, and climbed the Great Wall as well as mountains. They donned traditional clothing and studied Chinese calligraphy, Tai Chi, tea preparation, zither music, and Mandarin and met up with four new members of our Dragon community who will join Middleburg Academy in the fall.

Even beyond traveling to a faraway continent and learning about its ancient and dramatically different history and culture, the most unique aspect of this experience was serving as counselors in a Chinese summer camp. This intimate peer-to-peer setting provided an uncommon approach to creating cross-cultural awareness and understanding, not to mention a great leadership opportunity. The 17-year olds were asked by the OVO International School in Huizhou (a city of five million in southern China) to prepare and teach American history, geography and cultural lessons. During the final week of their stay, the group was responsible for hours of daily instruction, creative activities, outings and games for more than thirty Chinese students in the 6th to 10th grades. Their presence was even featured in a Chinese television news segment entitled, “Chopsticks Bridging Cultures.”

The trip is part of Middleburg Academy’s effort to build closer ties internationally and, more specifically, to develop an ongoing partnership and exchange with the OVO School and its diverse population of students from China, Korea, Mexico, Spain and France. It is hoped that a group of OVO School students will come to our campus in mid-winter (during their long school break) to audit classes, learn how to develop school clubs and other co-curricular activities, tour DC, and offer cultural presentations.

Middleburg Academy, and before that, Notre Dame Academy, has always had a significant international presence -- at a level unusual for a day school.  More than twenty students from China and Korea are enrolled for the 2014-15 academic year. The coming year will also see the introduction of Mandarin to the Foreign and Classical Language Department course offerings.

To further enhance and support the school’s multi-cultural community, last year Middleburg Academy engaged YuYan and David Moore as International Program Coordinators. The Moores are a Leesburg-based husband and wife team with a range of international student experience.

They work in close collaboration with the faculty, administration and admissions department to focus on the recruitment of students from afar, and ensure a welcoming, encouraging, and supportive environment once they enroll. The couple oversees everything from necessary documentation and airport pick-ups to arranging host families, academic tutoring and support programs, social and cultural outings, and an overall orientation to American culture.

Last winter, the Moores spent nine days in China touring schools, providing group presentations and, most importantly, meeting one-on-one with prospective students and families, key administrators and teachers, as well as international placement agency representatives.  The OVO International School exchange is one of many fruitful outcomes of that trip.

Middleburg Academy welcomes and values the diversity that students from other countries bring to its classrooms and co-curricular offerings, and appreciate their many contributions to the creation of a vibrant campus atmosphere.