A Mutually Beneficial Exchange
February 14, 2017
Filed under Features
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High school students from Beijing, China have been given the opportunity to live the life of a typical American teenager for three weeks. Arriving on January 28, these students are assimilating to Westford Academy’s culture and getting a taste of life in the United States. Their time at WA has not only left an impact on them, but also on their fellow students.
The exchange program consists of students from Beijing, their host families, and the WA students whom they are shadowing. Westford families volunteered to host a student from Beijing in their home for three weeks. To provide the students with the best possible experience, the WA students they would shadow were specifically recommended by teachers based on their warm and friendly personalities. One such student is Izzie Redman, a sophomore who was recommended by her acting teacher, Mike Towers.
“It works out well because a lot of kids who do theatre are very outspoken and outgoing […] it makes it very easy when there’s someone who’s new to get them out of their shell,” Redman explained.
The majority of exchange students come from Beijing High School #4, International Campus. Lemona Niu is a sophomore who made the journey across the globe to Westford. According to Niu, everyone at her school is given the opportunity to participate in the exchange program, and most students want to study abroad.
When asked how she feels about her time at WA so far, Niu has only good things to say. She has felt welcomed by her teachers and peers; is working hard to match the academic levels of the WA students; and has picked up some extracurriculars such as Photography Club. According to some of the shadowed students, the exchange students excel in classes such as math and science but struggle in some of the foreign language and specialized classes.
“Lemona doesn’t speak French, and she doesn’t know visual basics in programming. She plays instruments, but they are Chinese instruments, so we don’t have them here,” Jessica Wong said, the WA sophomore whom Niu is shadowing.
Despite the difficulties in some classes, Niu and Wong have developed a close friendship. They have learned a lot about each other and their countries.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s nice because she’s with me every single class and school day…you have stuff to talk about because you’re in the same class […] but it’s so sad because I’m not a part of the Mandarin exchange,” Wong said.
Visiting Massachusetts in the heart of winter has given the students a true feel for New England weather. During their short stay, they have experienced several snow storms and three school cancellations. Back in Beijing, there are smog days rather than snow days, where students are forced to stay home due to high levels of smog in the air, which pose a threat to the lungs.
As for the host families, their main goal is to help the students adjust and have an overall great experience in America. The students have encountered snippets of what it’s like to be an American with the Superbowl and Valentine’s Day. Renee Owen is a sophomore at WA whose family is hosting two exchange students.
“They seem to be getting adjusted well […] they like all the free time and food my mom cooks. For the Superbowl, we baked a cake and had a blast during [our] Superbowl party, [which is] something they don’t have in China,” Owen said.
With just one week left in the program, WA will soon have to say goodbye to the students on February 25. This is a one way exchange, so American students will not be traveling to Beijing with the school. The official exchange program may come to an end, but the friendships between the students of WA and Beijing are sure to endure.