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Head's Blog

Our Annual Trip to Asia
Traveling with Associate Head for External Relations Nat Follansbee, Director of Development Tim Struthers, and Director of Enrollment Management Amy Thompson, I started writing this blog on a flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok, the final destination of our annual Asia trip. We began in Seoul ten days ago and, in addition to Seoul and Hong Kong, have visited Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. On Sunday we will head back to New York and home just after our students have departed the Island for their Thanksgiving break. In all we currently have a little over 80 students from these cities as well as a growing number of alumni. Indeed, in Bangkok we will be celebrating 50 years of Thai alumni!

At each of our stops we have both individual and group meetings with parents and alumni and in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, we hosted admission receptions for prospective students. Amy also spent time in each city interviewing admission candidates. Approximately 15 percent of Loomis students are international students, and they come from around 35 different countries with China and Korea sending the highest numbers. We have a long history as a school of welcoming international students as our Founders insisted that we enroll students not just from Connecticut but from around the country and the world. Osbert Loomis, the Founder most responsible for recording the family's wishes, had spent significant time traveling in Europe and had even lived for a time in Cuba. He celebrated the benefits of cross-cultural interactions for future Loomis students.

This is my tenth trip to Asia for the school—and on every trip I have had new and interesting experiences including visiting schools, museums, and temples as well as, of course, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Mostly, I look forward to reconnecting with the friends that we have made here over the years that we have been coming—past and current parents and alumni. My chopstick skills are better than they were—although still not as good as they perhaps should be. I love Korean BBQ and the dim sum in Hong Kong, the mango and pomelo soup and Portuguese egg tarts, and all the regional variations in Asian cuisine from Beijing to Shanghai to Shenzhen to Bangkok. We have also enjoyed talking with parents and alumni about global issues and learned a great deal about how our friends in Korea, China, and Thailand see the world.

But our trip is about much more than our cultural education, although it clearly helps to understand more about where our students come from. We spend a fair amount of time on our trip meeting individually with parents and hearing about their concerns for their children. Our Asian parents are similar in most respects to our US parents; they care deeply about their children and want to know that they are not only receiving an outstanding education but are also well, happy, and safe. I am happy to report that on this trip we received very few if any complaints about the food. Like us, though, our Asian parents worry about the level of stress our students are under and want to know what sorts of things we are doing to support students. We also talk about the curriculum and the need to stay current in an increasingly interconnected and technological world.

Our alumni most often simply want to reconnect with the school. Like alumni everywhere, those individuals who visit with us are proud of their school and want to hear about new initiatives as well as old programs. I was proud to share with them photographs and videos of the new Scanlan Campus Center, as well as to talk about the achievements of our current students. They want to hear about the faculty who made a difference in their lives, and they want to know about our current students. In Thailand, we met the first Thai student who graduated from the school in 1969. Dr. Chalacheeb Chinwanno is now a retired professor of Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University in Bangkok. He told many wonderful stories of his long journey to the United States and his experiences here.

A student's education is always enhanced by meeting people who are different, who have different backgrounds and assumptions, different histories and cultures, different perspectives on the world. Our annual trip to Asia is a reminder of our Founders' vision to attract and educate students from around the world. We are a global school, and our international students contribute greatly to our reputation and programs.