St. Louis School students and staff are experiencing another culture thanks to America Project Hope, an international student exchange program.
Since the beginning of school in August, seven students from Handan, China, have been enrolled in grades 7-8. They, along with their teacher, are staying with host families until the end of October. They are enjoying their stay in Indiana, since this is their first trip to the United States.
Each of the visitors has taken an English name. The teacher is known as Miss Pony because her family name means horse. She says, “I have two main tasks. The first is to help the students keep pace with their homework in China. Every week I collect their homework to see if they did it or not.
“Second, I have to teach the students here at St. Louis something about Chinese culture .... I hope they will be interested in it, and someday when they grow up they can pay a visit to China or learn Chinese.”
She has noticed some differences between the two nations. “Here, you are living in houses. In China, you live in apartments. You don’t have any buses or taxis here and you never take trains. In China, for everyday travels, we can ride bikes, ride the bus, and for longer distances we can take a train.”
Regarding eating habits, “In China, we have a totally different style. We are used to having more vegetables and rice. We never eat butter or cheese. We do have Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, so I knew some about the American food.”
Pony says her favorite American food is tacos. “I once had Texas straw hats. I love this kind of food.” She also enjoys spaghetti, barbecue and mashed potatoes. “They are delicious.”
While going on several shopping trips, the educator also discovered “things here are much cheaper .... If I want to buy a pair of jeans in China, it’s at least $100. Here, I only spend $60 for two.”
The students - Kathy, Mary, Louis, Ann, David, Barry and Sam - have learned a lot about this country’s culture and some of the differences between it and their nation. Louis reveals the school day is much longer in China, and “we have a nap at school.” They also go to school six days a week.
Kathy adds, “In China, we don’t change classrooms every class. Only the teachers change.”
David had the opportunity to attend a wedding. “In China, we have weddings in a restaurant. In America, we have a meal and party stuff and you can dance .... The wife throws the flowers over her head.
“I like American religion because they believe in God. It’s very interesting to learn even though sometimes I can’t understand what they’re talking about.”
For birthday parties in the Asian country, Ann recalls, “We always go to a restaurant. In America, we just stay at home.”
Mary reports, “There are a lot of people in our family, and they always have a family party.”
Barry announces the most challenging aspect is the language. However, the students have adjusted well. He will always remember the people he has met. Sam says his fondest memory is being a part of the soccer team.
Alex Stone, whose family is hosting David, says, “During fall break, we’re going to Florida and Disney World.”
SLS students have enjoyed getting to know their new classmates. “They learn stuff a lot sooner than we do,” Haley Chaffee notes. Jodi Johnson adds, “Their stuff is a lot harder than ours in America.” Jessica Raver reports, “In China, they take English for a class.”
Sophie Meadows reveals, “I thought they adapted very well .... sooner than I would.”
The exchange students have also attended extracurricular events. Lupe Blanco observes, “I’ve seen them go to soccer and football games and dances, and them being there is really fun.”
SLS teacher Sherri Kirschner remarks, “The American students are explaining certain things for them. I find it interesting that our students are becoming teachers.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 114; or diane.raver@ batesvilleheraldtribune.com. To comment on stories, visit batesvilleheraldtribune.com.
• Brad and Lori Nobbe and daughter Katie were interested in hosting Mary “to provide us with a unique experience and opportunity to learn about another culture, and hopefully to provide Mary with a welcoming place to stay,” reports Lori Nobbe. “One nice experience that we had was a day spent at Clifty Falls (State Park in Madison) with Mary, the other two female exchange students, the Chinese teacher and our family. We hiked and grilled out. We also had a sleepover for the female students along with my daughter and three of her friends for my daughter’s birthday and Mary’s half birthday. It was very interesting to see the older Chinese girls interacting with the younger girls. From this experience, I think we have learned that people are more alike than different. I think it has helped us realize that there is a world outside of our own country. I have enjoyed e-mailing and sending photos of Mary to her parents and getting to communicate with them. If someone has the chance to host an exchange, they should definitely consider it. It does require some patience as different cultures do things differently, but it is a good experience.”
• Gino and Amanda Canessa and sons Marco and Leo are hosting Ann. The family says, “Amanda’s family had exchange students in their home while she was growing up. It was always a great experience. We wanted this experience for St. Louis and Batesville. We wanted to learn more about China ourselves. We love food, and so a lot of our experiences have centered around that. We have introduced Ann to Five Guys and Graeter’s as well as several local places and fast food. We went to Jungle Jim’s as well and have tried Chinese candies, different dumplings and black rice from China that Ann picked out for us. We have explored Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Ann has become involved in the Batesville Soccer Club as well as tae kwon do at the YMCA. Over fall break, we plan to go to Seattle, Wash., and Orange County, Calif. We have learned that teenagers are teenagers no matter where they grew up! We have learned a smattering of Chinese words, but much more about the culture.”
• David is living with the Chuck and Beth Stone family. Beth Stone admits, “I was amazed that their parents would let them come to our country and stay for three months at such a young age. I wanted them to feel wanted and accepted in our homes and community .... David has attended two weddings and got to watch a hog trough dance. We took him duck pin bowling in Indianapolis and to a Chinese festival. He attended a family reunion and got to hit a pinata. He has been able to play on a soccer team. He has attended a school dance and watched volleyball and football games. He roasted marshmallows. He has attended church each Sunday and gone to grandma’s house for breakfast.” She reveals, “Kids are kids. It doesn’t matter where they come from. They enjoy eating chocolate, playing video games, dancing and being with friends. They don’t like cleaning their rooms .... I think our world would be a better place if we could focus on what we share in common rather than how we are different.”
• The Dr. Jon and Jenny Geers family are hosts to Sam. “He goes by the nickname Spotty here in America,” Jenny Geers announces. “Our family welcomed Spotty into our home because we feel very blessed in our lives and want to be open to times Christ calls on us to share our blessings .... We have had many great experiences so far with Spotty. His English is becoming more fluent and, as an only child in China, he is so joyful when he plays with our five children. It has been very interesting watching him learn to manage free time. His time is very structured in China, without much variation. Seeing him understand that he can make choices in his life has been very rewarding. The best part about this whole experience relates to our children. We feel this whole experience makes our children more accepting of others and their differences. During the first week Spotty was here, we had a cookout, where we served hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. I asked Spotty if he would like some macaroni and cheese and encouraged him to serve some to himself. I watched with a smile on my face as he scooped some out, piled it on his hot dog and started eating it. My son could not suppress a smile. Alex backed away from the counter, looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and promptly added some mac and cheese to his own hot dog. Silly, but a proud moment for a parent! If you ever have a chance to provide shelter for anyone, you should follow your heart .... Taking Spotty into our homes was, in many ways, a leap of faith and we have been greatly rewarded.”