For the past two weeks, Old Rochester Regional High School and the Tri-Town at large have welcomed a group of Chinese students in what is hopefully the first of many years of mutual exchange trips.
Seventeen students from School Number Six in Guangzhou, China, arrived on April 24 to immerse themselves in the American life by living with host families in the community and participating in classes at the high school with designated “school buddies.”
The students came to the United States from their international school in China through a program run by BostonWise, a company dedicated to “creating cross-cultural connections through educational experiences” between the two countries. While the exchange program has already run successfully at Wareham High and other Massachusetts high schools, the opportunity to expand students’ worldviews has finally come to ORR.
The Chinese students were officially welcomed to ORRHS during a weekly meeting of the American Field Service club, which seeks to build upon local students’ global identity through similar events; for instance, a group of AFS members participated in an exchange this year with students from Pomona, California. The classroom was packed as both groups gathered for introductions and an abundance of sugary snacks in the relaxed setting.
This gathering took place on their second day at ORR, so the Chinese students had already attended a day’s worth of classes alongside their volunteer student guides.
Sophomore student Claire Noble-Shriver is one of these school buddies. “It’s been nice learning about Chinese culture and seeing [the exchange students] in classes,” Noble-Shriver said of the experience.
High school students will not be the only ones to experience this diversity of cultures, as the exchange students will also act as guest speakers at the junior high to share about their life in China.
Ben, who is Noble-Shriver’s Chinese school buddy, spoke on some of these lifestyle differences. “The [size] of classes here is smaller than in China, and class is more free; we can choose to do a lot more things. The teachers are really nice,” he added.
“Math is good,” commented Roger, another exchangee. “Spanish language class is a bit harder.”
“The school buddies are nice,” his friend Sam said, adding that “all the classes are in English here, which is hard,” since they are taught in Mandarin at their school in Guangzhou.
Their classmate Leon elaborated on these thoughts. “[School] is very different from China. Every day we sit down and listen; I feel like here there is a lot more freedom in class and it is more relaxed. In America you can be yourself, but in China we have to be a good student and study, study, study. There’s a lot more pressure in China. The weather here is great, too,” he said with a laugh. “There’s lots of sun.”
Although much time is spent based at ORRHS, the Chinese students are also receiving the chance to visit and explore other areas in the northeastern states.
“During the first two weeks the students go to school, so host families can arrange activities,” said Skyla Zhang, the group’s BostonWise chaperone. “There are also weekend activities, like going to Stonehill College for a workshop, and then visiting Wrentham Mall. This week, the students are going to Boston to tour Harvard and MIT, and there is a big farewell dinner at Stonehill in the evening. All host families and school buddies are invited to come and say goodbye to the group.”
The adventure continues past the borders of Massachusetts, however. The Chinese students will also have a chance to see Brown University and The Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, followed by a week in New York City to see the sights of the metropolis.
Even though the Chinese students will soon be leaving, the impact they have had on the ORRHS and Tri-Town community will last for long afterwards, as their exchange may be the first of many between China and America hosted at Old Rochester.
By Jo Caynon