By Dustin Luca
---- — A group of Andover families — and the entire Andover High School community — hosted a group of Chinese high school students for a taste of life in the U.S. for the last week.
The visiting Chinese students sat in and observed classes, went to area amusement parks and museums, toured Boston and more. The final stop on their week-long tour brought the kids to Andover High School Principal Chris Lord’s house for dinner Wednesday on their last night in America. They are leaving to return home today, Thursday.
During their visit to Andover, the exchange students found that high school in America isn’t as rigorous as it is in China — where 13 periods running from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. provide a tough education regimen, according to teacher Liu Hong Yan of the Hengshui School in China’s Hebei province.
“They’re enjoying their experience in America, and when they come back to school (in China), it will broaden their experience,” she said.
The visit, by eight students and two chaperones, was part of an ongoing program between Andover High and Hengshui School. Students from Hebei visited Andover earlier this year and a group of 10 Andover students traveled to China in April.
While Andover students stayed on campus in China, the Chinese students stayed with Andover families in America.
Ali Hale, whose family was hosting one of the students, said she mentioned to her guest that American schools have Saturday and Sunday off. “He said, ‘No, no, you have every day off from school,’” said Hale, who was among the Andover contingent that visited China in the spring.
AHS student Abigail Awodele said her “Chinese sister” expressed a personality trait she wasn’t used to — something completely un-American.
“In America, we have so many different stereotypes in everyone. To see that they don’t have those stereotypes is amazing,” she said. “She has an incredible personality.”
Andover student Una O’Toole said the trans-global collaboration made an impression on her as well.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s a great way to connect our two cultures and our two schools.”
While the visiting students were essentially taking a week off from their routine in China, that isn’t to say they weren’t busy.
Starting with their arrival on June 5, they embarked on a packed schedule of visits and stops daily, with most days beginning at 7:30 a.m.
As the students returned to China today, Lord is looking ahead to improve — and expand — global high school relations in the future.
“The world for these young people is going to be a global community,” he said. “I’m hoping we can continue to develop these kinds of relationships with students and the world, students spending their April or February breaks everywhere.”
Though specific examples and details couldn’t yet be confirmed, work is underway to partner with schools in European countries in the future, according to Lord.
“It’s going to be good for us to establish formal relationships,” he said. “We’re definitely going to try it again.”
Hale said the program opened her eyes.
“The world is a playground. You can do anything you want,” she said. “In order to broaden your horizons, you have to explore their culture. These programs are so beneficial to the AHS community. It has become the kind of thing that everyone really wants to do.”
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