A long way from home

Foreign student Abed Maita joins the class of 2018


Photo: Margo Valadie

Abdul smiles in the midst of a conversation outside the St. George’s lunch room. Abdul recently traveled from Lebanon to study with the class of 2018 for six weeks

6,522 miles. That is the distance that Abed Maita, or Abdul as he prefers to be called, traveled to join the class of 2018. He spent six weeks studying at the “Lodge” before returning to his home in Lebanon.

“I wanted to have a new experience,” Maita said. “I wanted to see how the colleges and schools are here, so that if I came to college in the U.S., I could be used to it.”

Maita had been living with his aunt and uncle, who were the ones who contacted St. George’s and asked if he could attendthe school. Although there were many schools to choose from in Memphis, Maita chose St. George’s for several reasons.

“I didn’t want to go to a public school because I know that the studying there would not be appropriate for me,” Maita said. “This is a private school and a good school from what I’ve seen. We came and talked to Mr. Morris, and he is a good man. I didn’t know about St. George’s before, but we heard it was a good school, and that’s why I came.”

While he was here, Maita immersed himself in the social and academic life and attended social events, such as football games. Additionally, he made friends within the St. George’s community.

“We’re very open to everyone, and we never turn anyone away,” junior Winston Margaritas said. “We’re very accepting to everybody. We’re a great school. I love St. George’s.”

Head of Upper School Mr. Tom Morris also said he was pleased to be able to have Maita study at St. George’s.

“I think it’s a great experience for Abdul,” Mr. Tom Morris said. “I think it’s great for our kids to see a variety of perspectives and experiences and also understand that there is an incredible commonality in the high school experience, whether it’s Lebanon or Memphis.”

St. George’s does not currently have a formal foreign exchange program, but Abdul was not the school’s first foreign student. Last year, Csenge Petak traveled from Budapest, Hungary, to join the class of 2016 in an experience similar to Maita’s.

According to Mr. Morris, having more foreign students like Maita and Petak may be an option in the future.

“There are tons of opportunities for programs like these,” Mr. Morris said. “We would want to make sure that the value for the kids is what it needed to be and kids could be safe, but there is nothing to say that we couldn’t have a more formal program. We’ve been fortunate with Abdul this year and Csenge last year that they’ve found us, and we were more than willing to accommodate.”

Although Abdul immersed himself in the various things that Memphis and St. George’s had to offer, there were still some aspects that remained unfamiliar to him, the oddest of which he considered the driving customs.

“I have to wear a seatbelt,” Maita said. “In Lebanon, there are no police officers around the corner to give you a ticket. There also aren’t any stop lights.”

Overall, Abdul seemed happy with his decision to study at St. George’s over his summer break.

“I love this school,” Maita said. “There are not a lot of things to do in Memphis, but this school system and everything is good.”