By Brooke Janson (Correspondent)
Each year, Sharon High School participates in a six week Chinese exchange program. Sharon students go to school in Xi’an where they bond with host families, visit many popular sites, and learn about Chinese culture and customs.
Mrs. Collins, Sharon High School librarian, has been involved with the program for six years and had the chance to go to China a few years ago. “I got to visit the school and can tell you that students receive the royal treatment and feel at home while they are there… Those on the trip attend Chinese culture classes to learn Chinese calligraphy, music, art, cooking, and Tai Chi… ” said Collins.
A sophomore at SHS, Sydney Losikoff-Carey, went on the trip and said she visited many well-known Chinese historical sights. “We have seen the Great Wall which was an amazing hike where we got to experience a breathtaking scenic view. We also have seen the Terra-cotta warriors which gave us the chance to witness the rich and ancient history of China being uncovered through the clay artifacts that archaeologists have discovered,” she said.
SHS freshman, Mackenzie Veazey, said she visited touring sites, participated in different activities, and went to various attractions in Xi’an. “Some sites that we see are more interactive, … such as the Muslim market. Very close to Xi’an’s bell and drum tower, we bargain for gifts, try delicious foods you most likely would not find elsewhere, visit fish spas and more,” said Veazey.
“This is not the only touring place – in and around Xi’an are many various spots you can relax at… At Xi’an’s city wall, we were able to bike… Farther away one might be able to climb an actual mountain with their host family…,” she added.
Sophomore Anabelle Keimach, another SHS student that went on the trip, says she had a lot of time to interact with the host siblings. “We attend our host siblings first two classes in the morning, and they have 10 minute breaks between class so we are able to talk to their classmates during this time. All of them are very interested in talking to us, and will often ask for our WeChat to talk after school,” said Keimach.
Keimach says they also sometimes give them gifts such as small snacks and notes. The students also get 2 hours for lunch, so during some of this time they will be in the courtyard where kids can play ping pong or basketball together.
Freshman Eric Lo, an SHS student on the trip, says there are opportunities to bond with his Chinese classmates. “Throughout the trip, … we have gone to different places with our host siblings and classmates … When we went to karaoke, most of our host siblings came as well as over ten of our classmates. … We also went to cafe’s to study and do our homework. Most of our host siblings came and sometimes our classmates came. These study sessions allowed us to interact … and see the kind of work they were doing and the things that they were interested in … ” he said.
Mrs. Newman, the technology integration specialist at SHS, went on the exchange trip two years ago. “… Students get a better feel for the Chinese culture and a better idea of what things are alike and what things different between the two cultures,” she said.
Newman says there are a lot more similarities than students anticipated in terms of family relationships and friendships, but also a lot of differences when it comes to food, social life/dating, and school,” she said.
Senior Dan Ward, an SHS student, went on the trip a couple of years ago. “Everybody had their own host sibling and host family that they lived with alone which was a really great experience… My host brother’s name was Dave… I hosted him when he came here and we’re really good friends. We talk all the time and have so much in common. I made a friend for life in him. He’s coming to college in America so I’m going to get to see him soon,” he said.
Collins is also in charge of the application process and oversees the planning of future trips. “… We encourage students who are thinking about traveling to China in the spring to also host in the fall… We do day trips to Boston and a trip to Salem on Halloween. A lot of students hesitate about hosting but that’s also an important part of it … It’s a great opportunity for our students to get to know someone from another culture,” she said.