Feature

Two Separate Languages, One Common Heart

Words: Minnie Gregorini

Photos: Izzie Chausse, Shalini Malhotra, and Minnie Gregorini

On Feb. 9, 16 Chinese students walked through the door to Centennial High School and set foot into a whole new world rich with very unique cultures.

25 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 came to CHS, while the other nine were sent to River Hill. CHS and River Hill welcomed these 25 students as a part of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by the Howard County Public School System and Tianjin 25th Middle School.

Those 25 weren’t just randomly picked. All the students in Tianjin 25th Middle School, whose first years are equivalent to an American sophomore, were given two tests. Once the results came out, the 25 students that scored the highest were given the opportunity to travel to America (in Chinese, America is pronounced Měiguó) and learn in American schools for three days. Because the test was administered to evaluate a broad range of subjects, many of the top students may excel at math or science but may not be as strong in English. It was a common struggle for the 16 students, and even harder if the CHS students they were shadowing didn’t speak fluent Chinese.

One student, Wang Xin Yu, said the hardest thing for him was “speaking. It was hard to communicate. But, I have learned more English already.”

Another boy, 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.”

Many of the students especially liked the American school system. One of the students, Li Shang, said that 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.” First year, Li Hao (also known as Jack) echoed that observation.

Most of the students had many of the same feelings towards 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.”

There were also many students from CHS whose families were hosting a few of the students. Teresa Whittemore, Ryan Sorak, and Abby Pavuk were some of those students.

“I really like sharing a house with the girls I’m hosting. It’s funny, because I didn’t think I would be spending much time with them at all, but I’m spending a lot more time with them than I thought I’d be. I really like my shadow too,” Abby said.

She continued with, “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.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

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