St. Ignatius envisioned the world as a place where Christ loved and served, a place of grace and of giving life to others. SLUH embraces a global education model that illuminates Ignatius’ vision while providing students the tools to succeed in a diverse, interdependent and rapidly changing world – in our own metropolitan area and thousands of miles away.
Following are stories from students who have benefited from opportunities to expand their horizons beyond the classroom on unforgettable journeys.
A REFLECTION BY THOMAS WU '19, TRANSFER STUDENT FROM NANJING FOREIGN LANGUAGE SCHOOL IN CHINA
I boarded my flight to Chicago alone on the foggy morning of December 29, 2016, three days after my 16th birthday. It’s an unwritten family tradition to send boys away when they turn 16 to explore, to learn and to be independent. My father attended Nanjing University to study biochemistry when he was 16, and 30 years later, I waited my turn to travel to SLUH to start my pilgrimage. I remember no tearful farewell, no last-minute kissing nor hugging but a calm goodbye at the airport. I obeyed my destiny and was ready to start anew.
It wasn’t all that romantic when I started. I arrived as a sophomore but acted like a freshman, curious, timid and rootless. I wasn’t shy but it took time to learn the new slang and to fit in the groups. Brotherhood isn’t meant to be built in one day; it takes courage, dedication and persistence. Now I have a circle of friends that sit together at lunch. We go to Top Golf and parties together, but looking back, I can still see myself enduring loneliness and solitude.
From the vast openness of Wentzville to the courtyard of O’Fallon and to the bustle of University City, I’ve been moving around to taste each bit of St. Louis and the Midwest.
Persistence and courage have always been the themes of my pilgrimage. In an elite all-boys school and a closely knit community like SLUH, one ranks himself through either sacrifice or excellence. A school-year’s morning Shakespeare reading from 7 to 8 in the library had earned me the honor to take Junior Honors English, and a season of dedication to practice on the track field brought me home two silver medals at the MCC Relays. To be on a pilgrimage is to be constantly self-improving and progressing; and as I consciously challenge myself with discipline, excellence and brotherhood will form naturally and firmly.
As for the destination of my pilgrimage, I want to answer God. As I’m undergoing my RCIA, I look forward to the coming Easter and to my baptism that will make me born anew. Then there’s a whole new stage of the pilgrimage waiting ahead of me with all its trials and gifts, testing me and forging me into a ‘man for others.’
A REFLECTION BY JUSTIN KOESTERER '19
I remember my first days of freshman theology in Mr. Sciuto’s classroom. He wanted us to pay attention to the homily, and, after the Mass of the Holy Spirit, talked to us about the readings, based upon one theme: “One body, many parts.” This theme is at the core of what it means to build a meaningful worldview.
Back in mid-June, I experienced two of the most amazing weeks of my life. Thanks to my parents, my teachers, and my classmates for making this experience what it was: a wonderful time to rethink everything about my relationship with others – especially in a place where, since our Russian wasn’t very good at the time, we had to understand each other more by our actions and how we treated one another, and less by what we said to them.
Being in Russia made me realize how I’d completely taken for granted things that we in St. Louis never had to worry about, like clean water, individual houses, freedom of speech and accessibility to a car.
Over the two weeks, my host student, Lilia, had taught me a little about Russian classical music, but what little she taught me was so powerful. One song in particular, a prelude by Rachmaninoff, completely mesmerized me. I politely asked for her to make a copy of the song, and, after returning home, practiced the piano like I had never had before. I now listen to Russian classical music whenever I need to relax; it has unparalleled drama in its compositions and interpretations. And to think that I probably wouldn’t have even known or ever listened to it before makes me think hard about how impactful we as people and as a culture are on the world, as we continue to develop globally.
The majority of Russia is not Roman Catholic, but my time there taught me that if we are to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth, our job isn’t merely to condone another culture’s ways, but to accept each other unequivocally. Indeed, Russia has been a country subject to much judgment, especially from Americans. But through the last two months, I understood the core of it all: we may be many parts, but we are one body.
A REFLECTION BY SUTHERLAN LITKE '20
My trip to Colombia was filled with many new and unique experiences. I got to eat different foods such as empanadas or arepas, which were delicious. I also talked with the students at our partner school Colegio San Pedro Claver. I knew a good amount of Spanish but was not fluent, yet it did not stop me from trying to talk to the Colombian students, and eventually I made new friends and would hang out with them after school. My host family let me go to several famous sites in Bucaramanga such as Santissimo, which is a huge white stone statue of Jesus on a mountaintop. In Colombia they emphasize the value of family, something I experienced when I lived with my host family. They welcomed me as one of their own family members and were very kind to me as I was adjusting to my new life in Colombia. Overall, my trip to Colombia gave me new insights on a different culture and allowed me to see beautiful sites and try the delicious food of a whole different country.
I brought back a Colombian student named Nico, who I had lived with for the whole month in Colombia. Nico would still talk to me in Spanish and teach me new meanings of Spanish words as I would likewise teach him new English words and their meanings. It was different at first when I showed him our house and where things were because in Colombia most people live in smaller apartments (Bucaramanga is crowded like New York City). It was funny how on the first morning here in America, I heard water running at 5:30 a.m. and thought something broke, but later realized it was just Nico taking a shower. He woke my parents and me. My dad asked me why he woke up so early on a Saturday morning, and so I had to explain how in Colombia we would always wake up very early to take the bus to school and that was just a common practice of his family’s daily routine. My time with Nico so far has always been a learning experience, with the Spanish language and with Colombian culture.
DID YOU KNOW?
SLUH’s global education program, which continues to expand and offer students more opportunities, remains an important strategic priority. Russian teacher Rob Chura was recently appointed to the new position of Director of Global Education to lead the school’s efforts in this area.
Each year SLUH welcomes international students from several countries while providing Jr. Bills the opportunity to learn and serve abroad. Some 2018-19 school year highlights include:
- Nine full-time transfer students from China. All but one of them are from the Nanjing Foreign Language School, considered one of the top schools in China. They have been at SLUH since the second semester of their sophomore year (if not earlier).
- Five exchange students studying at SLUH for at least a semester. They include three Russian sophomores from St. Petersburg Gimnaziya #209, and two Colombian students from Colegio San Pedro Claver in Bucaramanga, Colombia.
- Senior Project in Russia: Three seniors will do their Senior Project in St. Petersburg in a joint project with St. Petersburg Gimnaziya #209 as well as St. John the Baptist Parish.
- Summer immersion trips to four countries: Spanish teacher Myriam Aliste led a group of four Jr. Bills on a five-week study and homestay program at Colegio San Pedro Claver in Bucaramanga; Chinese teacher Yude Huang took a group of about 20 SLUH Chinese students and parents to Taiwan for a two week program (a longer term relationship with a Taiwanese Jesuit school is being explored); French teacher Kevan Morshed led a group of students to Chartre, France, for a two-week homestay program with a Catholic school; and Russian teacher Rob Chura took 12 juniors on a two-and-a-half week study and homestay program in St. Petersburg.
In addition to international experiences, Campus Ministry offers service immersion trips to places like Arizona, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Students can also take advantage of field immersion experiences in Silicon Valley, Wall Street and Washington, D.C.