Thirty-five students from Westville Boys’ School in Wandsbeck, South Africa visited the Upper School for two hours Oct. 6 as part of a two-week-long California college tour.
The Westfield Boys’ School is a member of the World Leading Schools Association, of which Harvard-Westlake is a founding member. WLSA promotes educational and cultural exchange between member schools, Director of External Learning Jim Patterson said.
“I wanted an opportunity for Harvard-Westlake students to genuinely interact with students from a different background,” Patterson said. “Anytime we bring students from abroad to Harvard-Westlake, you have the opportunity to really understand what it is like to grow up in a different part of the world.”
When the students arrived at the Upper School, Father J. Young, Dean of Student Affairs Jordan Church and Patterson met them and gave them an overview of Harvard-Westlake life from the perspective of the faculty and administration.
“I will say that the norms are very different between Westfield Boys’ School and Harvard-Westlake School,” Patterson said. “They have more rules regarding dress and appearance than we do here.”
“Obviously, they have uniforms and they have regulations regarding how short their hair must be, and things like that are just completely different than the norms that we have here at Harvard-Westlake,” he said.
The students went on tours led by Benny Weisman ’15, Sarah McAllister ’15 and David Seo ’16 that ended with a student-run panel in Ahmanson Lecture Hall.
“They were definitely more hesitant to be verbal,” Weisman said. “I’m not sure if that’s because I was touring them or because they were used to being under command.”
The students talked with the eight members of the panel about various aspects of Harvard-Westlake life, including Peer Support, the private taxi service Uber and differences between life in Los Angeles and life in South Africa.
“Initially they were pretty shy, so we were asking them questions to get them going,” panelist Nina Woythaler ’16 said. “They seemed to have some pretty rigid stereotypes about football players and cheerleaders, so we spent some time trying to dispel that. But other than that, none of this seemed that foreign to them.”
After the panel, the students left Harvard-Westlake to go to Universal Studios.
“It was actually quite a short visit,” Patterson said. “They just wanted to spend time on a high school campus in the United States when they were here.”
During the rest of their tour, the students visited colleges, including UC Berkeley and UCSD.
“Harvard[-Westlake] is a very nice school,” a Westfield student said. “I enjoyed visiting and learning different things and seeing different people.”
The day after their visit, the students visited UCLA.
“Two hours was not adequate at all,” Patterson said. “But you do what you can with the constraints that you are given. I’m sure they got a lot out of it.”