On invitation from the ASEEI, Brennan traveled to Shanghai and Beijing, China, January 14-21. ASEEI intends to expand and strengthen their exchange program which now has two students at Aquinas and also has students at Cal State, San Bernardino. Aquinas was chosen because it offers programs and a curriculum that can challenge the students and yet the campus is small enough to offer personal care.
“I think they (ASEEI) like our school,” said Brennan, “they see caring people when they come here and they know the kids will be treated well.”
The purpose of Brennan’s trip was to better understand each country’s school curriculum and educational philosophy. This will ultimately enhance the exchange student experience. What Brennan experienced that he didn’t expect were school administrators, staff and parents who felt similar about education as Aquinas, with an emphasis on educating the whole child, body, mind and spirit.
The other private school visited was in Shanghai and had a very large campus of 7,000 students, and looked like its own little city, according to Brennan. It is rated the top school in its district. Classes were not in session as it was their winter break, but it was told that they have as many as 50 students in a class.
The schools Brennan met with were all very interested in developing collaborative programs and Brennan said he is certain he will continue dialogue with the administrators. They showed great interest in Aquinas’s expanded programs of the arts and English, and history.
Aquinas will begin taking applications for the Chinese exchange students from these schools in March for next school year. Brennan feels perhaps there will be a live interview process so that Aquinas can select the students that will benefit the most from the exchange experience and select those that have a fairly good mastering of the English language. Aquinas expects to accept no more than 15-20 new exchange students as they now have 15 exchange students from various places, and want to keep the total to no more than 40.
In turn Aquinas will slowly look into its students traveling to China for perhaps a 2-3 week visit during one of its breaks and then later for a semester as the desire for this program grows among the students to experience what China has to offer.
As Brennan reflected on the trip, he said that it was very educational and even more, he learned about a people of which he knew little.
“They are a hard -working people who I found to be kind and outreaching to a visitor,” he said.
“The students we are educating now are going to live in a very global world. The city, state, and country mentality is going to need to open up to understand those beyond our borders, and continents away. It is my hope that the developing international program will support this understanding.”