My preparation as an international student

By: Julie Chau Pham – A student of SPP

Part 1: Where am I going?

“St Paul Preparatory school, you’re going there when you’re older” – said my grandma. The plan of going to SPP was set up from the day my parents decided that I could speak foreign language, specifically, English. To be more specific, I learn most of it from Disney and Cartoon Network at the time. When my parents got home from work, and I ran to them and started to randomly say English phrases from TV shows. “My daughter is a genius!” – my dad said proudly as he picked me up and swing me around. He has never proudly said somethings about me from then until the day I return to Vietnam from SPP.  He was surprised to find how much I have grown and improved my education, abilities to be flexible, professional and capable to take care of myself. And we all sat around and talked about my adventure life in Minnesota at SPP.


My grandma works as a representative of Nacel Open Door Vietnam – a company that has been co-operating and supporting with SPP. My parents had a talk with my grandma after they found that I have the potential to speak English very well. I mean I don’t blame them for being surprised, I was maybe four or five at the time. It’s not that I was just imitating the cartoon character line. As I went along the shows, I actually understood most of it and what was going on. There’s actually a study that baby or toddler tend to learn and understand better and faster because in the first few years, we tend to be more curious and absorb information better. My parents decided to let me go to an English class to better my practice. Unfortunately, there weren’t any class for toddler kids like me, so I had to join in a class full of first, second and third grade.

Now is the perfect time for the dramatic Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the background. Again, I was just five to be exact, I didn’t learn  the alphabet or was capable of understanding how to write. There I was, sitting around with a bunch of grown up (to me at least), wondering what to do. It wasn’t very hard at the beginning of the class, we grouped up to play a little vocabulary game. Me, of course, encounter the fact that no one picked me to be in their group because you know, who wanted a five year old in their team. And so, the teacher put me randomly a team just for the sake of starting the game. But surprisingly, our team gained points so fast from question to question; the game ended so quickly, the teacher was out of questions to ask us. “Not bad for a five year old” – that one kid from my group patted on my head and smile. And from that moment until now, I have been believing in myself, no matter how old I am. I have to believed that I have the potential and brave enough to embrace myself.

– End of part one. To be continued.. –

My Preparation as an International Student (pt.4 – final)

By: Julie Chau Pham

Part 4: It starts here

After 20 hours of flying around, I’ve arrived at Minneapolis International Airport. I felt kind of excited, dizzy, and  maybe a little sleepy. My friends and I walked to the baggage claim area, looking for our belongings. When all of the sudden, people with big poster of our names on them arrived. We stood there with confusion and awkwardly hug people who we hardly knew.

“Hi!! I’m going to be your host mom! Welcome to America!”

Turned out we were suppose to have our host parents picked us up from the Airport and take care of us for the rest of the year. My host mom, who is luckily a teacher from SPP, came in the Airport with my Chinese roommate to bring me home. Both were very friendly and welcoming, they made me feel like this was home.

On the way home, my host mom asked: “ Are you hungry honey? We could get you something?” Finally, we decided my first meal in the US is going to be at Taco Bell, very interesting. I forgot to mention that my host mom has a huge dog! Her dog ate half of my taco, but the half I got to try was great. When we arrived home, I unpacked my suitcases and went straight to bed even though it was just 7:00pm  because I was so tired. But I woke up at 5:30 in the morning because of universal reason for every international students, jet lag. The sun rise in our backyard was gorgeous though. My host mom made us breakfast with bacon, pancakes and omelet eggs. That hint of spice and onion just woke us up with energy right away. Our home was a bit far away at the time and we won’t be moving until 3 weeks later after; so our awesomely nice host mom drove us to school and taught us at school too. I have to admit, I was very lucky to be in a great environment.

part 4

The day came in with orientation day at school, we got in groups, went through school rules and walked around the school with new friends. They were from around the world and best of all, friendly and interesting. We all sat around and have lunch with each other, talked about the diversity of culture. By the end, my host mom drove us back home for dinner and some goodnight rest for more amazing days. It was a great day for my first step as an international student; I will never forget this wonderful day.

part 42.jpg

My preparation as an international student (Pt.3)

By: Julie Chau Pham

Part 3: Let’s go..

Before I go on this big trip, I actually have some companions. I’m not the only one that’s going to the US, there are four other older students who are going too. They’re all boys, so that makes me the little sister of them. Being the little one is actually not bad. They have more attention on me and care about me. We had a meeting before the big flights came around, we chatted about everything while having brunch. They are very nice and friendly, I felt less stressful when I knew I have a group to depend on.

Finally, the big day. My mom cooked the traditional noodle of my country for good luck, Pho. She said Pho will helps me never forget where I am from and I’m proud of that. My family and relatives all gathered around to said goodbye.


After dinner, my dad checked over my body temperature, see if I was okay; he checked over my suit case, my clothes to see if I am comfortable, my passport, I-20, etc. I’m the oldest in the family, but still, my dad couldn’t stopped worrying. I arrived two hours early at the airport, I was excited and afraid at the same time, it was a mixture of feelings. My family had to drop me off at the gate so I could do the paper work. “Ohh please please god have mercy and take care of my sweet grand daughter, she’s too young for this. Be careful, okay? Study hard and focus on your career. Remember to eat a lot on the plane okay? I’m too old to stay around forever! Please be the best of you.” – my grandma said with tears falling out of her cheeks. I wasn’t feeling emotional, not at all, but when my grandma got choke up a bit, and oh no, I blew it; tears started falling out my puffy cheeks. “Don’t do that mom! She needs to stay calm and happy to do this! Come here honey, it’s fine, you will be fine I’m sure. You will be home in no time. Don’t worry. We will be fine at home.” – My dad said while hugging me.

“Come here my little kitty, give mommy a hug before you run off.” – My mom came in. Now that I think about it, they all sounded like I was a five years old going to America. Lastly, I should recall that I have a five years old sister and three years old brother. They barely knows what to said, I mean they’re kids, they are too busy looking around the big air port. They actually knew I’m going somewhere to study, they just don’t understand the whole ideal of it. “Sis, where are you going? Can we come too, put us in your suit case.” – they said with their big eyes; they were so cute. “I have to go and study, you guys stay at home. Be good okay? Don’t disturb mommy and daddy. I will bring presents home soon. I love you, come here you!” – I said as I tried to pick both of them up and have the last hug. “Well I have to run now.. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, I think. I love you guys. I’ll be home soon.” – as I walked to the “big gate of life”, waving, tried to stop sniffing and wiped off my tears. And my new life begins.


My preparation as an international student (Pt.2)

By: Julie Chau Pham

Part 2: Saying the hardest words.

Three months before my big day – the flights to the US. I had to do a lot of preparing. I needed to get all of my clothes ready, winter clothes, especially. I needed to get the VISA to enter the US. I needed to get a make over for a new fresh start. Basically, a lot of preparing. I was swamped the entire summer with work for this life transition. Of course, I spared some of the time to visit my classmates before I left. I also spared a little of my time to revisit my beautiful memories for the last three years with them.

My friends thought my going to the US was a joke, or it was just a plan for the future, but they were surprised by how early and rush it was for me to leave. They asked me so much about why it had to be so rush? Why now? And why couldn’t I stayed just a little longer? I was a little emotional about how they were so worried and sad. “You know, sometimes, things have to fall apart to make way for better things.” – I said with a hint of smile while they are all over me with unanswered questions.

They bursted in of tears and hugged me, and I awkwardly gave them pats on their shoulder. I just didn’t know what to do or expect. I mean I have been with my friends for three years long, that’s actually the longest time I stayed in the same school. Leaving to go aboard is hard, you will miss out on a lot, and no matter how much you tries to hold on, it’s actually already gone.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

“Memories are the most the most precious thing you could ever have”

“It’s not like I’m gone forever or anything, no matter where I go, this is going to sounds cheesy, but I’m with you, in your heart. Whatever you guys need, I will try my best to make it happen. Okay?” – My eyes wanted to be Niagara fall. Saying goodbye is not easy, not at all, but moving forward is also a part of growing up.


It’s Football Season: A Brief History of America’s Favorite Fall Sport

For many Americans Sundays in the fall are spent with friends and family sitting in front of the TV watching one of America’s favorite pastimes, football. The sport is also very popular among our international students, due to the popularity of the sport here in the states. This popularity comes from the deep roots football has in the United States. The game has been a big part of American culture for many years, 122 years in fact. In 1892 the first game of “professional” football was played between Allegheny Athletic Association and Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The rest, as they say, is history. However, how did one simple game of toss turn into a multi-billion dollar industry? Let’s review.

The Origin of the Game
Where the game of football originated is still uncertain. Some believe that the Native Americans were some of the first to play a ball game similar to that of football. However, others believe modern football originated in Europe.

An Intramural Sport
In the 18th century football began to be played as an intramural sport on college campuses such as Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale. Each campus played the game a little differently, but had overall commonalities. One commonality was the violence level of the game, which lead to protests and an ultimate ban of the game at Yale and Harvard.

The Birth of the Inflatable Ball
In 1855 manufactured inflatable balls were made.The ball was more regular in shape than the homemade footballs of the past. The shape of this new ball made it easier to kick and carry.

“Boston game”
By the middle of the 18th century two kinds of football were being played, a kicking game and a running/carrying game. The Oneida Football Club was the first play a hybrid of the two games called the “Boston game.” This hybrid game began to gain popularity throughout the country during the 1860s. This popularity released the ban of the game on college campuses. Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, and Brown played a kicking game while Princeton played the game according to rules established by the English Football Association.

College Football
The first intercollegiate game of football ever played was by Rutgers University and Princeton University in 1869. 5 years later representatives from Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers met to create an official rule guide to football. Harvard, who still played their version of football called the “Boston game,” refused to attend the meeting. However, after playing against McGill University under the new rules Harvard had a change of heart. In 1876 representatives from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia met to standardize a new set of rules for football. Harvard, Princeton and Columbia went on to form the Intercollegiate Football Association. Yale joined the association in 1879.

Walter Camp
Walter Camp was vital in helping developing the modern rules of football. He was the first to propose reducing the player number to 11. He also established the line of scrimmage and the snap from center to quarterback. All of these changes were approved in 1880. Camp would go on to propose more rules that would revolutionize the game of football forever. He is known for being an important figure in the development of American football.

For the Love of the Game…and Money

The first player to ever be paid for playing football professional was William Heffelfinger.  Heffelfinger was paid $500 to play for Allegheny Athletic Association against Pittsburgh Athletic Club. As time went on it become very common for football players to be paid. However, the ways in which these players were being compensated became quite corrupt. The National Football League (NFL), established in 1920, noticed this problem and aimed to solve it. By 1922  the NFL was established as the premier professional football league.

No Longer a College Affair

Football was a collegiate sport up until 1925 when an NFL team, the Pottsville Maroons, played against a team of Norte Dame all stars. In the 1930s a greater emphasis was placed on the “passing game,” instead of the “running game” which helped establish football as more than a college sport.

Football’s Impact on the World

Baseball may still be the all American pastime, but football is America’s most popular sport. Football also has a significant following in Canada, Mexico, Japan, and European countries such as Switzerland and Germany.

Packing for Minnesota: An Ultimate Packing Check List

The start of the St. Paul Preparatory School 2014-15 school year is less than a month away and many of our students will be making a trip to the northern United States. As both new and returning students prepare for their trip many of them may struggle with what exactly to bring with them. Packing may seem like a simple task but when you are planning to stay far away from home for almost a year this task can seem scary and overwhelming. We narrowed down the essential items that you may need when traveling to Minnesota from another country.

Standard Items:

  • Passport
  • Plane Tickets
  • Student Visa
  • Prescriptions – Bring enough for the length of your stay. If you run out you may have to see an American doctor. (Note: Make sure to speak with your local doctor before your trip)
  • Glasses/Contact Lenses – bring extra
  • Vitamins
  • Book(s) – for the plane ride
  • Journal
  • $300 in American currency
  • Wallet
  • Backpack
  • Outlet adapter
  • Laptop w/ charger
  • MP3 Player/iPod
  • A few hangers


  • Underwear – two weeks worth
  • Socks – two weeks worth (Note: Consider packing thicker socks for the winter month)
  • Jeans – a few pairs
  • Nice Dress Pants – 1 pair for more formal occasions
  • Pajamas – 2 pairs
  • Swimsuit – Minnesota does house the Water Park of America!
  • Long Sleeve & Short Sleeve Shirts
  • Sweatshirts/Hoodies – 3 to 4
  • Sweaters
  • Heavy Winter Coat
  • Jacket – a lighter one for warmer months and one that is water-resistant
  • Shorts – 2 to 3 pairs
  • Skirts/Dresses – for more formal occasions
  • Workout Clothes
  • Sneakers/Dress Shoes/Snow Boots
  • Gloves/Mittens/Hat/Scarf
  • A Few Accessories – don’t pack your whole jewelry collection, just a few favorite pieces
  • Thermal Underwear – you laugh now but when you are outside in the dead of winter you will thank us

 Toiletries: (Note: If these items are in your carry-on bag they need to be TSA Compliant)

  • Feminine Products – a few to travel with
  • Contact Solution
  • Nail Clippers
  • Makeup
  • All other toiletries can be bought when you arrive in the States


  • Copies of your Medical and Dental Records
  • Small portions of your favorite food from your home country – in case you have a craving while away from home
  • Photos – you can buy frames when you get to the U.S.

Fall Fashion Trends in the United States:

  • Mini Dresses
  • Bold Prints
  • Gold Color Scheme
  • Sportswear
  • Fairy-Tale Inspired
  • Neon
  • Pastels

What’s on your packing list? Did we miss anything? Let us know!

Turkey: It’s Not Just a Type of Bird

During the summer months the halls of St. Paul Preparatory School are quiet and barren. However, during the weeks between July 12th and August 9th St. Paul Prep comes alive with students from Turkey who are participating in Nacel Open Door’s Short Term Program. Students take a semester’s credit of World History and Human Geography all within a 4 week period. As the program begins to come to a close we decided to learn more about Turkey and the culture these students come from. We rounded up 15 interesting facts about the country of Turkey.

  1. Turkey has a total population of 75,627,384.
  2. The country of Turkey is slightly larger than the state of Texas.
  3. Turkey is home to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Temple of Artemis & Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
  4. Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the fifth largest city in the world.
  5. Eastern Anatolia contains the oldest monumental structures in the world.
  6. The last home of Mary, mother of Jesus, is located just 7 km (4 mi) from Selçuk.
  7. High school is optional in Turkey. Courses are generally lecture-based, and memorization is emphasized.
  8. The oldest known shipwreck on earth was found in Uluburun near Kas.
  9. There are approximately 9,000 different species of flowers in Turkey.
  10. Turkey is actually called the Republic of Turkey.
  11. 80% of the world’s hazelnut exports are from Turkey.
  12. The first Christian church was built in Antioch.
  13. The Turkish alphabet does not include “X” or “Q.”
  14. Tulips were introduced to Europe by Turkish traders in the 16th century.
  15. The turkey bird gets its name from the country, despite being a native bird to the Americas. Europeans misidentified the bird as a type of guineafowl or turkey fowl, which are birds that were imported through Turkey.

Do you have an interesting fact about Turkey? Tell us in the comment section below!

Your Next Travel Destination Doesn’t Have to Be Abroad

Turkey, Italy, United Kingdom and China may be some of the top travel destinations in the world, but you can find wonder and beauty right in your own backyard. The rest of the world tends to feel the same. According to the International Trade Commission in 2013 69.8 million individuals from Canada to Australia traveled to the United States to see our nation’s wonders and to experience our culture.

Top travel destinations for international travelers, according to the International Business Times where:

  1. New York, New York
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada
  3. Orlando, Florida
  4. Miami, Florida
  5. Los Angles, California
  6. San Francisco, California
  7. Honolulu, Hawaii
  8. San Diego, California
  9. Chicago, Illinois
  10. Washington, D.C.
  11. Boston, Massachusetts
  12. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  13. Seattle, Washington
  14. Newark, New Jersey
  15. Anaheim, California
  16. Houston, Texas
  17. Lake Buena Vista, Florida
  18. San Antonio, Texas
  19. New Orleans, Louisiana
  20. Hollywood, California

All 20 of these places are known for their breath-taking views and tourist attractions. However, we feel that many of the best travel destinations in the United States are being overlooked by our international visitors. Here we compile a list of OUR top 10 travel destinations in the U.S.

  1. Yosemite National Park, California – There’s a reason why this national park is one of the most popular parks in the U.S. With breathtaking views, a 620 foot waterfall and great hiking trails this park is a must see for both domestic and international visitors.
  2. Flagstaff, Arizona – There is anything but dry, flat lands in these parts of Arizona. Flagstaff is one of the top skiing destinations in the United States and has the largest contiguous pine forest in the country.
  3. Twin Cities, Minnesota – The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, are packed full of attractions and restaurants that will keep any traveler busy during their stay. From the Mall of America to the Sculpture Garden (Home of the Giant Spoon and Cherry) the Twin Cities has attractions for everyone from the art lover to the sports fanatic.
  4. Madison, Wisconsin – Madison tends to get the bad rep of being only a college town. However, this city has a lot more to offer than university bookstores and coffee shops. With a large farmers market, a variety of restaurants and an array of concerts and events Madison is sure to be a memorable trip.
  5. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – This national park houses the largest supervolcano on the continent. Yellowstone Lake is also home to one of the largest high altitude lakes in North America. However, Yellowstone is most famous for its geyser, Ole Faithful.  Yellowstone also has a variety of plants and animals that one can view on the variety of hiking trails and camping locations throughout the park.
  6. Joshua Tree National Park, California – I mean, U2 did name an album after the place. Joshua Tree is known for its vast amount of desert land, rock formations, and it’s split ecosystem due to elevation variations. This place is a dream for those who love to hike, camp and rock climb.
  7. Denver, Colorado – Just like the Twin Cities, Denver is one of those cities that gets overlooked by many international and American travelers. Denver has a lot to offer: art museums, national parks, Union Station, and it is now the beer capital of the west (for all you 21+ travelers).
  8. St. Louis, Missouri – The Midwest tends to get overlooked by travel goers, but St. Louis should make people stand up and pay attention. First off there is the Gateway Arch, standing at 630 feet you can ride to the top of this stainless steel monument. Add on the amusement parks, the St. Louis Zoo, sculpture gardens, multiple eating establishments, and multiple automobile museums you can see why St. Louis is the gateway to the west.
  9. Portland, Oregon – Portland may be known for its “weirdness,” but that’s what gives this city its charm. Portland is an environmentally conscious city with lots of farmers markets and bicyclists on the road. Account for the food courts, the expansive art scene and the funky neighborhoods this is bound to be a unique travel experience.
  10. Nashville, Tennessee – With the nickname “Music City” can you go wrong?

SPP Introduces its New STEM Program

In the Fall of 2014 St. Paul Preparatory School will launch its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Program. Students will focus on four years of core course studies in science, mathematics, and technology that incorporate the principles of engineering. Accompanying the launch of the STEM Program is St. Paul Prep’s new STEM Classroom along with a Web Lab and Dry Lab. The new program couldn’t have started at a better time. With STEM jobs projected to increase substantially in the coming years, as well as the increasing needs in technology and medicine for fresh faces and idea even President Obama has made STEM education a top priority in the United States.

At the Announcement of the “Change the Equation” Initiative back in 2010 President Obama stated “… Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today—especially in science, technology, engineering and math.” He’s statement could not be more true. According to the U.S. Department of Education only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career. Yet the need for jobs in the STEM field from 2010 to 2020 is staggering.

  • 16% increase in Mathematics
  • 22% increase in Computer System Analyst
  • 32% increase in System Software Developer
  • 36% increase in Medical Scientist
  • 62% increase in Biomedical Engineers

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education

This is why President Obama has set a clear priority for STEM education. That priority is that American students must move to the “top of the pack” in Science and Math. He urged schools to hire 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the next 10 years.

St. Paul Prep is at the forefront of STEM education; doing what many high schools have yet to do, making STEM a priority before seeking a higher education. By having a STEM emphasis in the curriculum St. Paul Prep students are able to learn and develop vital analytical problem solving, informed decision-making, and critical thinking skills. This also gives students the chance to see if a STEM related career field would interest them, before applying for colleges.

The St. Paul Preparatory School’s STEM Program recognizes those students who have dedicated themselves to this rigorous course of study. By pursuing the SPP STEM option, these students have shown their interest in a mastery of the skills in critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration that will make them a valuable part of the 21st century workforce.

To learn more about the St. Paul Prep STEM Program click here.

For more information on President Obama’s STEM education initiative click here.


Independence: Americans Aren’t the Only Ones Celebrating

Tomorrow marks one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the summer. The 4th of July to many of us means time spent with family and friends, barbequing, fireworks and a 3 day weekend all in honor of our independence claimed in 1776 from the Kingdom of Great Britain. However, Americans are not the only ones celebrating an Independence Day in July. 20 other different countries through out the world celebrate their independence during the month.

People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria – Independence from France on July 5, 1962

Argentine Republic – Independence from the Spanish Empire on July 9, 1816

Commonwealth of the Bahamas – Independence from the United Kingdom on July 10, 1973

Republic of Belarus – The liberation of Minsk after years of German occupation July 3, 1944

Kingdom of Belgium – Independence from the Netherlands on July 21, 1931

Republic of Cabo Verde – Independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975

Union of the Comoros – Independence from France on July 6, 1975

Republic of Liberia – Independence from the private American Colonization Society on July 25, 1847

Republic of Malawi – Independence from the United Kingdom on July 6, 1964

Republic of Maldives – Independence from the United Kingdom on July 26, 1965

Republic of Peru – Independence from Spain on July 28, 1821

Republic of Rwanda – Independence from Belgium on July 1, 1962

Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe – Independence from Portugal on July 12, 1975

Slovakia Republic – Division from Czechoslovakia on July 17, 1992

Solomon Islands – Independence from the United Kingdom on July 7, 1878

Federal Republic of Somalia – Union of Trust Territory of Somalia and State of Somaliland on July 1, 1960

Republic of South Sudan – Independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011

Republic of Vanuatu – Independence from the United Kingdom and France on July 30, 1980

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuel – Independence from Spain on July 5, 1811

The world certainly has a lot to celebrate in July! Click on the countries above to learn more about their culture and how they celebrate their day of independence.