Many parents and graduates often wonder how they can stay connected to their school if they are living far away. In the case of Andy and Julie Wei, “far away” from Portsmouth means roughly 7,000 miles in Beijing, China. That distance, however, does not keep them at arm’s length of the School, their son Alex ’20, or other Abbey families. Andy and Julie have spent the last two years drawing local and Chinese families closer, bridging the gap between foreign parents and the Abbey community, and working tirelessly to improve their son’s Abbey experience.
Andy and Julie graciously hosted several events in Beijing, from a parent reception to a science building campaign event. These events drew in a crowd that might otherwise have been distant from Portsmouth Abbey, and as a result, more families are now more connected than ever to life on Cory’s Lane. Julie spent much time calling and contacting new students’ parents, encouraging them to become involved, and connecting with Chinese and US families alike. They hope to continue these events in the future with an eye on increasing attendance and participation.
Andy and Julie stress the importance of parent involvement, especially for those farther away. “No matter how long the distance between our home and campus, Julie and I understand that the Abbey is another warm family and community for all of the students,” Andy says. “Parents actively volunteering for the School will be role models for Alex and other students, so they can better understand that they are part of the Abbey family for their whole lives.” They also believe that their volunteer efforts will help Alex and other students understand the importance of taking responsibility and making a difference.
Volunteering time and talent may sound simple – and in many cases, it can be – but adding a language barrier, culture shift, and distance makes it easy to dismiss the possibility of helping out. Andy and Julie are quick to discourage this line of thinking. “Volunteering for the Abbey is important to contribute to and build this community,” Andy says. “Julie and I keep close communications with other parents and let them better understand how their involvement helps improve their kids’ integration into the School. More and more parents have become actively involved with the School.”
As they approach their son’s next two years at the Abbey, Andy and Julie are looking forward to what the future holds for them. “We hope Portsmouth Abbey will have more capability – with more families’ active involvement – to well educate young men and women to blossom with a high standard of courage, integrity, responsibility, and grace.”