Beijing students get immersed in Atlanta

By Annie Hou in Atlanta For China Daily | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-10 12:56

Beijing students get immersed in Atlanta

For Simon Du, a senior at Beijing 101 High School, this New Year is the most unique one he has ever had.

Rather than celebrating with his family in Beijing, he spent two weeks with his newly made friends in Atlanta.

Every day was full of excitement, from climbing Stone Mountain and sitting in on classes at Westminster Schools to playing trombone in the school band and helping pack meals at the local food bank.

"This experience is unprecedented. I have learned a lot and the interaction with my host family and my student buddy really brings America to life. I love Atlanta," said Simon, when he introduced himself in English in front of about 500 lower school students and faculty on Thursday.

Beijing students get immersed in Atlanta

Simon was one of nine exchange students from Beijing 101 High School to Atlanta's Westminster Schools, visiting Atlanta during the Chinese Lunar New year (Jan 28-Feb 10) and each staying with a host Westminster family.

Simon has been staying with the family of Riley Payne, an 11th grader, and going with Riley to the same classes and activities every day.

"Simon and Riley speak both English and Chinese at home," said Jennifer Browne-Payne, Riley's mom. Riley started learning Chinese in 6th grade and is now in the AP (advance placement) Chinese class.

Completing the AP class means that the student has mastered the Chinese language and culture to a degree that can lead to 12 different college majors and 48 different career areas.

Asked why they chose to learn Chinese, Jennifer said their family has always thought of China as a big country and market. Learning the language opens a door.

"Not only Riley, but my other two kids and myself also feel China is closer due to Simon's visit," said Jennifer, who has never been to China.

To bring a bit of China to life, the visiting Chinese students, along with some of Westminster's Chinese families, made dumplings and other traditional Chinese New Year treats for the school's "Around the World in 80 Bites" event, an international fair celebrating the school's global community.

The two schools started the exchange program five years ago. Every Spring Festival, around 10-15 Beijing 101 High School students visits Atlanta, hosted by Westminster. And every summer, about 15 Westminster students

Becky McKnight, director of Student Life at Lower School of Westminster, introduced the Beijing 101 students and this exchange program to elementary school students at school's Thursday morning assembly.

For Yang Shuangwei, a teacher who chaperoned the Beijing 101 High School students' visit, the cultural immersion in Atlanta is very comprehensive. Not only do they have fun activities on the campus, they also had the opportunity to serve as volunteers for the local food bank packing food for the homeless.

"I have never done this or seen this in China before. I really enjoy this opportunity to serve the community," said Yang.

Growing lifelong learners who can "serve and lead" in a changing world is one of the missions of The Westminster Schools. Founded in 1951, the school has about 2,000 students, ranging from pre-first through 12th grade. Beijing 101 High School, founded in 1946, is one of most well-known high schools in China.



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