The blog post below is adapted from an article that appeared in Centennial High School’s online newspaper, The Wingspan. The post was written by Centennial sophomore, Minnie Gregorini. Students Izzie Chausse, Shalini Malhotra, and Minnie Gregorini contributed pictures.
On Feb. 9, a group of Chinese students walked through the door to Centennial High School and set foot into a whole new world rich with very unique cultures.
Twenty-five students from Tianjin 25th Middle School came to America with one common goal: to experience the culture of American life. Of those 25 students, 16 went to Centennial High School, while the other nine were sent to River Hill. CHS and River Hill welcomed these students as a part of a Memorandum of Understanding between HCPSS and Tianjin 25th Middle School.
The students weren’t just randomly picked. The entire student body at Tianjin 25th Middle School, whose first years are equivalent to an American sophomore, were given two tests. The 25 students who scored the highest were given the opportunity to learn in American schools. The test was administered to evaluate a broad range of subjects, so many of the 25 students excelled at math or science but were perhaps not as strong in English, for example. It was a common struggle for the 16 students at Centennial, and even harder if the CHS students they were shadowing didn’t speak fluent Chinese.
One Chinese student, Wang Xin Yu, said the hardest thing for him was “[Speaking] was hard to communicate. But, I have learned more English already.”
Another student, Li Rui, said that it was difficult ordering lunch. “The hardest thing was telling [the lunch ladies] what I wanted to eat. I couldn’t understand them. They couldn’t understand me.”
Despite the language barriers, many of the students liked the American school system. Li Shang said she liked the dynamic between teachers and students. “The teachers and students are a lot closer in America than in China … It’s really nice.”
Most of the students had many of the same feelings toward the common cultural practices here, though each of them seemed to have his or her own favorite part of America. One student, Li Xiao Zheng, stated that his favorite thing was the American people. “They’re really nice here,” he said.
“Computer Science. I really like Computer Science,” said student Liu Ming Yang.
“I really like the cafeteria,” said Gao Jin Sheng. “The food here is good!”
The CHS students being shadowed also got to experience a lot culturally. “I was really nervous at first because I was sure I would embarrass myself with my Chinese,” said junior Tess Hawkins. “But we ended up getting along really well,” she said about her and her shadow, Li Hao.
Brian Reed said, “It was nice showing [Jun Ran] around the school. It was fun learning more Chinese from him and I realized that the things that we take for granted sometimes they don’t have. So it’s really been interesting.”
Some of the Chinese students were hosted by CHS families and their children/students, including Teresa Whittemore, Ryan Sorak, and Abby Pavuk.
“I really liked sharing a house with the girls we hosted. It’s funny because I didn’t think I would spend much time with them at all, but I spent a lot more time with them than I thought I would. I really like my shadow too,” Abby said. “I’d always wanted to be a host to an exchange student so when my mom got an email and asked if we wanted to host, I immediately said yes.”
All in all, this program has turned out to be a success for both CHS and Tianjin 25th Middle School. Hopefully, in the future, Centennial will be able to participate in more programs like it.