International student life

International students have the opportunity to learn about American culture, gain fluency in English, and assimilate into the United States' educational systems in preparation for attending American colleges and universities. They also take full advantage of enrichment in the arts, athletics, community service, and extracurricular activities, leaving them both well-prepared academically and as well-rounded individuals for the challenges after high school. Many go on to attend some of the most competitive universities and colleges in the United States.

Williston seeks academically-minded students who are willing to get involved in the life of the school. All classes are taught in English, and the school offers an Advanced English Language Learners course. We look for students who are outgoing and interested in learning about different cultures, and who are willing to teach us about theirs.

Our goal as a school is to create a community of students from a variety of backgrounds who can connect over common interests and talents. We work to educate all our students—American and international—about the important role different cultures and backgrounds play in creating a global community.

Director of International Student Programs

The transition to Williston for international students is made easier by the school's Director of International Student Programs, who provides guidance as students adjust to living and learning in an American boarding school. The Director also serves as a liaison to parents; offers advice on academic and social issues; provides information about I-20s and other international student forms; and organizes a special orientation for students to help them become accustomed to the campus environment and the American educational system.

With the Director's support, an international student can become involved in all aspects of school life as he or she gains independence in learning and living.

Academic Program

Because Williston’s academic program is college preparatory, we assume that international students are to be prepared to enter an American college or university upon graduation. We may recommend to ELL students that they plan to take an extra year in order to complete academic requirements and to successfully prepare for college or university acceptance. We do make a few adjustments to diploma requirements for students whose first language is not English:

1. The ELL student is not expected to meet the anguage requirement since he or she has proficiency in a first language other than English. While we encourage all students to study a third language if they are capable of doing so while meeting other academic requirements, only a few students find they have time to do so.

2. The English Language Learners course may meet graduation requirements in English under certain circumstances; however, our goal is for all ELL students to be able to succeed in a standard, age-appropriate English course before they graduate since that is a clear advantage for admission to an American college or university.

While most students at Williston take five courses, we adjust the course loads for ELL students, especially during their first year in the school. A typical course program for a first-year student is Advanced ELL, Algebra 2, World Civilizations, and Painting.

A typical second or third year ELL student’s program would be English 12, Calculus, Physics, U.S. History, and Drawing.

Such a course of studies is comparable to that of an American student in the 11th or 12th grade.

English Language Learners

Our advanced ELL course is designed to provide transition to the kind of standard English curriculum offered to native speakers of English.

ELL students are taught English grammar and composition and are instructed in the kind of language skills important for the TOEFL and SAT. Students learn academic reading and writing skills. They read American and English literature and learn different styles of expository writing by working on research papers and critical essays. ELL also emphasizes spoken language. Students learn how to infer meaning in conversations, how to take notes from academic lectures, how to glean the important information from English language broadcasts, and how to communicate with others in every day conversations.

In the ELL class, students are also taught how to learn and study in the American style. For instance, in our classrooms all students are expected to participate in discussion, to ask questions of their teachers, and to challenge each other’s ideas in class, which may be unfamiliar to many international students. Teachers at Williston are interested in their students’ academic work and expect their students to ask questions in class and to ask them for individual help after class. ELL students may not be accustomed to this informal exchange between teacher and student and are encouraged to learn to take advantage of this educational opportunity. Williston’s ELL teachers help their students learn what is expected here both inside and outside the classroom.

Academic Support

Each ELL student’s course program and academic support needs are planned individually. When a student first enrolls, those plans are made by the Academic Dean, but, as other teachers and tutors work with the student, their opinions and ideas are included as well. Continuing services which are available include: appointments with specific teachers for extra help sessions, arrangements for tutoring by another student, arrangements for tutoring with a private tutor (extra fee), advice plus assistance in summer school placements, and additional preparation classes for the TOEFL exam.

College Counseling

The process of applying to American colleges and universities is complex because of the diversity of the country's higher education institutions. Because there is no national university system in the U.S. and Williston students have a variety of interests and objectives, the choice of colleges our graduates attend is also varied.

For all students, the purpose of the college counseling program is to help the student select a group of colleges or universities to which to apply which match the student’s interests, academic needs, potential career goals, and admissibility. Because the range of choices can be especially confusing to the international student and his or her family, emphasis on personal attention and individual assistance by our College Counseling Office has been especially valued by ELL students who graduate from Williston.

Staying in Touch with Families

Each student at Williston has a faculty member who serves as an advisor on academic, personal, and general adjustment matters. International students are assigned advisers who either have had personal study or travel experience abroad or who are especially interested in working with international students. These advisers meet periodically to learn more about their advisees’ countries and cultures and to review the academic progress and social needs of the ELL and international students.

Parents receive a comprehensive letter describing the student’s general progress from their student’s adviser twice during the year. Formal academic reports are posted online at the end of each trimester. All academic and adviser reports can be faxed to parents overseas as are all personal communications about any health or discipline concerns. When a student’s family has no one available to help with communications in English, we are able to locate translators or interpreters to insure that any information vital to a student’s health or safety is properly communicated.

Parent communication with teachers, advisers, and other school representatives is always welcome by email, telephone, or fax. And, when parents have plans to travel in the U.S., with advance notice, we are happy to arrange conferences with teachers and advisors.

Student Life

To encourage swift acquisition of spoken English and to encourage as much friendly exchange as possible among students of different languages and backgrounds, international students are often placed with American roommates and are assigned to each of the ten dormitories and houses on the campus. International students establish friendships with American students and many are invited home to visit friends for a weekend or a school holiday. During our informal meal times and open schedule hours, there are opportunities for cross-cultural involvement as well as time for relaxing moments with those students with whom one shares.

Although the hours of study can be long, especially for ELL students in the first year, international students find that the variety of sports and student activities offers them opportunities for both recreation and new successes.

Williston’s location is ideal for international students. The town is small and safe which allows students to walk to local banks and stores to shop for personal items. During nighttime hours, one or two security officers patrol the campus as a precaution. There is public transportation to the larger college towns of Northampton and Amherst for restaurants and more shopping. Because of the variety of concerts, movies, and athletic events which are within fifteen miles, students are able to attend many events which are school sponsored and chaperoned. There are also a number of nearby boarding schools which sponsor dances and social events to which students are invited.

Vacations and Transportation

The school is closed during the November, December, and March recesses, and all students must leave campus at those times. Many international students connect with domestic boarders and stay with their families.

For personalized service to and from area airports, many students use Archer Airport Limousine ( During shorter weekend breaks, the school keeps dormitories open, so that students who wish to may stay on campus.