A Slice of American Life for Chloe Ma


Chloe Morbelli

Chloe Ma smiles to the camera

Chloe Morbelli, Staff Writer

During this school year, exchange students from various parts of the world have traveled to Westford to attend Westford Academy, so they can learn and experience American culture.  Meet Chloe Ma, a fairly typical sixteen year old girl.  The one thing that makes her atypical is that she is from China.

Ma arrived in Westford from Shijiazhuang, China in August of 2016 and is spending her sophomore year of high school at WA. When asked to describe what it’s like to live in the United States and how it compares to her hometown of Shijiazhuang, the one word that Ma uses over and over is “different.”

Shijiazhuang is a large city in Northern China near Beijing. Ma is the oldest of her siblings, with a younger brother and sister. She describes that being apart from her family and friends back home is a difficult adjustment.

Although she is only sixteen, Ma is no stranger to travel. She has visited four out of the seven continents, including Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America. She hopes to visit Africa in the near future. Of all the places she has traveled, Ma says that Martha’s Vineyard is one of her favorites.

This is Ma’s third time in the US. She visited twice before with her family.

“I [have been] to a lot of different cities in the West, East, and South,” Ma said.

Ma became involved with the foreign exchange program through her private school in Shijiazhuang. Her school offers international programs and has many exchange students from other countries.

At WA, Ma has taken advantage of the many activities and clubs offered, including fencing, one of her favorite sports. Ma is an accomplished fencer, having practiced the sport for about five years. In addition she has joined Model United Nations.

Ma explains that there are major differences between her private school back home and WA. Her school in China has kindergarten to grade twelve and requires students to wear uniforms. The class sizes are much bigger, with approximately forty students per class. English is a required language for all students, which explains why Ma speaks the language so fluently and clearly. Ma points out that in China, her school is much more rigid than what she has experienced in America.

“I just think it’s really different. [For example,] in China we have stable class[es] which means we stay in the same class for the whole day, and the teacher comes to [our] class. We have the same classmates every day,” Ma said.

Just like anyone starting at a new school, Ma described her first day at WA as a bundle of chaos mixed with excitement. Without the same background knowledge as American students, she had some difficulty in subjects such as American history and chemistry. The chemical names and formulas are different in Chinese, and Chinese history is taught back home rather than American. After a bit of time, she was able to adapt and now truly enjoys her classes, teachers, and the friends she has made, and today her favorite subject is history, with a passion for politics.

She sees a future for herself in the US and is considering staying here for the rest of her high school and college years.

“Next year I plan to apply to a private school, maybe in Massachusetts. I really like Lawrence Academy,” Ma said.

Despite the major differences between China and America, Ma enjoys being in the US and plans to stick around for a while. Her time at WA is providing her with an authentic slice of American life.