Students and teachers from Shengli Primary School in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province in China, are again visiting Warsaw and its schools this week.
Two teachers and 24 students from Shengli visited Harrison Elementary School in 2014. This year, a different group of students and teachers from Shengli have been split between Harrison, Madison and Jefferson elementaries.
“The reason we do this is for our students and, of course, for theirs,” said Harrison Principal Lee Snider. “We want to have our kids have this experience, and we want to expand it to other schools this year so they can have this opportunity.”
He said hosting the visitors is about living Warsaw Community Schools’ mission statement and enriching the lives of others. Warsaw is home to global companies, and having international students visit can serve the Warsaw students well, he said.
Events planned for the visiting students included a cookout Tuesday evening at Jefferson, and visiting the high school and middle school today to work with Warsaw students studying Chinese. Thursday, the Shengli students will read to Harrison students in Chinese and share their calligraphy. On Thursday night, they will tour downtown Warsaw and Grace College.
Snider said the host family students are the ones really getting the best experience because they get to spend four nights with the Chinese students and make new friends. He said he was happy and excited that the host families opened up their homes to the visiting students.
Jefferson mom Courtney Jenkins said her family was hosting two Chinese students.
“I have three daughters at home and I felt it would be a great experience for them to experience a different culture and make friends from a different place,” Jenkins said during the cookout Tuesday.
It was the Jenkins’ first time of hosting international students, but she said they would definitely do it again.
“They are so kind and so considerate,” Jenkins said, noting they made their own beds and tried different foods.
“I made corn for dinner and they didn’t know what corn was,” Jenkins said. “They tried it and liked it and tried it again.”
Harrison parent Regan Mangun and her family hosted two students.
“We hosted last year,” she said, adding that it was a good opportunity for her daughters to see a different culture.
“As a family, we enjoyed it, just trying to get to know someone else’s culture and language,” Mangun said.
She added it also was good for her daughters to learn to host someone else who is out of their element and to make them feel comfortable.
“It’s very beneficial to my kids and they enjoyed it. As long as they enjoy it, we’ll keep doing it,” Mangun said.
Angie Tom, a Harrison parent of three boys, hosted two Chinese male students.
“It’s not every day that you get this opportunity to experience cultural diversity first hand,” Tom said.
She said they’re really sweet and polite kids. After the cookout, Tom said they were taking her visiting students out on a boat ride on Winona Lake, and tonight were giving them a tour of Tom Farms.
Harrison welcomed its visiting students Tuesday morning with a convocation and gift exchange.
“They’ve come to see us from the other side of the world,” Snider told Harrison.
Chinese Education Connection LLC Director of Operation Phil Boley, a 1968 WCHS graduate, told Harrison students that Hangzhou has “only” 7 million residents and China has 1.3 billion, and more people in China speak English than those who do in the United States.
“We’re so glad to be here today,” he said. “Maybe some day you’ll get to go to China, too.”
Through a translator, a visiting teacher told Harrison that they were glad to be here and were very thankful for the students and teachers.
After the convocation, Boley said Chinese Education Connection works with educators from Chinese schools. In August, when they are off, CEC brings groups of students to the United States. This year, they have eight students each at Harrison, Madison and Jefferson.
Shengli and Harrison are sister schools. Harrison teacher Deb McClintock visited China and the school there three years ago with Boley’s former organization, Global Indiana. She signed a memorandum of understanding to form the sister school.
Jiang Li is a fifth-grader at Shengli. Through a translator, Jiang said the climate at Harrison is very nice, and the teachers and students feel like friends.
This is the first time she’s been to the U.S. and Jiang said she wanted to come because she’s never been here before.
Asked about her host family, Jiang said their house is very big and everyone is very kind to her. The environment is very quiet.
Comparing Warsaw to her hometown, Jiang said there are a lot of animals around here. Her host family’s home has three floors, which is very different from her own home. She also noted it was very clean and neat, not like the noisy city she comes from in China.
The visiting teachers include Chen Xueying and Li Xuehui.
Chen said she wanted to come to the U.S. to compare the educational systems. She hopes that when she goes back to her school she can talk to her students about her visit.
Li said their school has connections to other sister schools like in Taiwan and she wanted to come and study here as well.
Though they’ve only been in the area since Monday, Li said she found it interesting how in Indiana there are not many people here. China has a large population, but there are not a lot of neighbors around in Warsaw.