Sarah has worked on the High School Programme at ISI since 2016. Before that, she graduated from Dublin City University with a degree in Applied Languages and Translation Studies. As part of her studies, Sarah spent an Erasmus year in the south of France where she attended university. After her studies at DCU, Sarah returned to France for an academic year where she taught English to high school students. She then spent two years living and working in Vancouver, Canada. Sarah has a passion for both language and travel, always searching for the next country to visit! She loves working with the team at ISI and having the opportunity to welcome amazing teenagers to the High School Programme each year.
Here below Sarah answers the most common questions from you, the parents.
-How long have you been working at HSP?
I have been working with ISI on the High School programme since November 2016. I started as a High School programme coordinator and began managing the programme in August 2019.
-What are the most common challenges in your daily role?
Our main goal is that the students are happy. While I encourage all students to be as open and honest with me so that I have the means to support them fully, I understand that it can be hard for them at times to be totally honest about how they’re feeling. This can be challenging as I don’t want anyone to feel as though they have to suffer in silence with the likes of homesickness or loneliness. I love to help, and I am here for the students do just that.
-What is it like to live with a host family for a teenager?
As part of the application process, all students are asked to outline the type of family dynamic they would prefer. We do our best to secure this for each student. It’s great for international students to experience what an Irish family is like, the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life in Ireland, get involved with family activities and become an honorary son or daughter for the year!
-The million-dollar question, who takes care of my child and how?
Your child will be allocated a local coordinator from ISI who will be his/her main point of contact while in Ireland. That could be me, or someone else from our team. We are at the end of the phone and always happy to have a chat, provide support, offer advice and be a trusted mentor during their time on the programme. Not only does this mean weekly phone contact, but it also means a once monthly (at least) meeting in person.
-Be honest, when a teenager closes in on himself, do you have tools to help him/her?
I have been working with teenagers for many years and have therefore experienced many occasions whereby my guidance and support has been instrumental in helping a teenager through a challenging time. My main priority with this programme is that all students are happy, healthy and making the most of their experience in Ireland. We’re only human and challenges do arise, such as illness, loneliness or even cases where a student feels unsettled with his/her host family. By maintaining regular contact with all students, and building a positive rapport with them, I am confident that myself and the team at ISI are well equipped to deal with challenging times in the most fruitful and constructive way.
-Are ISI High School staff members experienced and trained?
All staff are experienced in working with minors, they are Garda Vetted and undergo regular Child Protection and First Aid training.
-Will my child meet the other students and ISI staff?
Yes! The day after the student arrives, we usually do an orientation day, where the student will meet all other high school students and their ISI coordinators. Our weekly English lessons (each Wednesday evening) also provide students with the opportunity to get together and catch up.
-How often will my child meet ISI staff?
Each student will be assigned an ISI local coordinator who will be contactable throughout the duration of the programme. We are in contact with students via WhatsApp each week and arrange to meet up in person at least once per month. We offer as much support and guidance as possible to the student and are always approachable and happy to help with anything. We are available Monday to Friday during office hours, and a member of staff will be on hand 24/7 via our emergency phone line.
-How will my child get his/her school uniform?
For students in state schools, ISI provides school uniform up to the value of €200. All host families will take thier student to purchase the school uniform. For students in boarding schools, either the school or ISI staff will accompany the student to get his/her school uniform.
-My child is interested in a particular sport and would like to continue practising it while in Ireland. Will this be possible?
Yes! The student’s local coordinator will encourage him/her to get involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible. Where the particular hobby is not on offer at the student’s high school, we will assist in finding a suitable club in the student’s local area.
-If my child is feeling homesick, what should he/she do?
The student’s local coordinator will be available to contact as regularly as the student likes. We encourage all students to seek our guidance and support when they need it, even if it’s just for a cup of tea and a chat.
-My child would love to stay with a host family with children, but no pets. Is this possible?
We encourage all applicants to make such specifications on their application form, and we always do everything we can to fully accommodate these requests. It’s also very important to clearly state any allergies or dietary requirements in your application.
-Will I get any feedback about my child’s progress on the programme?
Yes! At the end of each month, we will send you a progress report outlining the contact we have had with your child that month, and how he/she is doing on the programme. Your child will also receive at least 1 academic school report from his/her high school during the programme.
-Is it possible for my child to return home during the school holidays?
Yes! There are two midterm breaks: a week in October and a week in February. There’s also a 2-week break at Christmas and a 2-week break at Easter. Students can return home during all of these breaks if they wish, but they also have the opportunity to stay in Ireland and participate in our social programme during the midterms and Easter break. We usually encourage students to return home for the Christmas holidays.