March 15, 2017 | International Exchange

Beijing No.4 High School Completes KL Exchange Program

Beijing No.4 High School Completes KL Exchange Program

Beijing No.4 School has completed a three-week long KL Exchange program with Westford Academy, one of the oldest public high schools in America. Each student gained new insight into American culture and high school life by shadowing a host student throughout the week. Together, they attended classes, clubs, extracurricular activities, and even lived with American host families.

While living and studying in a new country is never easy, the students adapted well over their three weeks. Emily Wang, a math teacher at Beijing No.4 School was relieved to see how happy her students have been. She recalls that “the first week, many students did not know where the classrooms were and weren’t yet familiar with their lessons. These days, I see students talk easily with their American friends. It’s natural for them to get along now that they’ve become close and realize they share many interests and hobbies.”

Students enjoy themselves before their class begins. Groups of Beijing No.4 students led the Chinese language class at Westford Academy and made presentations.


Cultural Differences

During their lunch break, the Beijing No.4 students go to the gymnasium to play a couple games of basketball with their American friends. There is a clear sense of camaraderie in the air. Even when the opposing team scores, there are cheers from both ends of the court. By the end of lunch period, all the students have worked up a sweat but haven’t kept too close an eye on the score. “Xie Xie! Good game!” one Westford student shouts as he exits the court.

Westford Academy students (left) and Beijing No.4 School exchange students (right) face off for a game of basketball in the school gymnasium.

Even Ms.Wang has a new appreciation for sports. “Basketball has brought us together,” she replies when asked about how she feels about the game. She is referring not only to the scrimmage, but also a special event that Westford Academy organized for all fifteen exchange students. Just a few days ago, all the students got a chance to attend an NBA game, where the home team won 116-108. “It is an important part of American culture. Not only because it is a good activity to improve yourself, but US sports are not just for athletes, but for everyone to enjoy.”

Students from both teams cheer after Beijing No.4 scores two points. A Westford student (center) jumps for the rebound.

Yujia Qu is a tenth-grade student from Beijing No.4 High School International Campus. Her hobbies include hip hop and jazz dance, which she enjoys between cram school and an intense workload at her home campus. She joined the exchange program to experience public high school in the US. This is not her first time visiting the US, but she appreciated the depth of insight that the exchange program allowed for. “Things [in a US high school] are not the same as how I thought from watching movies,” Yujia said. “The attitude is more open-minded and there is more diversity that I expected.” When asked about other differences, she noticed that her American peers felt “more comfortable with participating in class.”

Students, including Yujia Qu (far right), focus attentively on the lesson.

However, the biggest difference was staying with a host family. “I felt like the family unit is much different here than at home. My family made sure there was time every day to talk over dinner and share how their day went.” It was this small difference that made Yujia feel comfortable living in a new country. Joining in on this nightly family time made her appreciate how close she became to her hosts.

Living with a Host Family

The host families not only take care of the students, but help the students reach the culture, food, and beautiful scenery. “My [host] family treated me very well, fed me well…and treated me like their own family. Every night, we would share knowledge about our cultures. And since Americans do not know as much about China as we do about the US, I think they learned a lot. But we had a lot in common to talk about, a lot more than expected.” Yujia recalled an evening where she cooked a Chinese meal for her host family fondly. “We prepared all the ingredients together, and I made them dishes that my family would eat. It was such a fun time.” When her host family learned of Yujia’s interest in becoming a lawyer later, they even brought her to the superior court to listen to a trial. During the closing ceremony, Yujia was chosen to give closing thank you remarks on behalf of her classmates.

Yujia smiles as she begins her closing thank you remarks in front of an audience of peers, teachers, and host families.

Yingzhuo Niu or Lemona, as she is known to her American classmates, also agreed that staying with her host family was a valuable experience and one of the unique parts of her stay in America. Her host family often took her around Westford, the town in which they lived. She felt the pace of life there was much different from the frenetic life of Beijing. “Every day in my city, people rush. But here I think there is more freedom and more time for family. I used to believe that Americans act welcoming, but were not sincere. Now that I have come to the United States and met my host family, I can feel how genuine [they are] and that they truly love people even if they have different backgrounds.”

Yingzhuo “Lemona” Niu (second from the left) takes a photo with her host family during the closing celebration.

Learning Experiences

“This exchange program has definitely helped me with college preparation as well,” said Lemona who hopes to someday attend college in the United States. “I’m more familiar with the lifestyle now, as well as American teaching and learning styles.” When asked about what she saw as the biggest difference between United States’ and Chinese education, Lemona focused on the educational attitude rather than a difference in curriculum. “Because of how much free time students in the US have after school, they have more practice with self-motivation and time management. I understand now that I want to work on developing these skills and how to manage myself better.” Lemona has also learned more about the student she wants to be in the future from working with her American peers. In class, she often noticed that the American [students] participated more and not afraid to speak out or volunteer answers, even if they were not correct. “I think [in China] the education system can be less forgiving since we cannot afford to make mistakes. The learning style took some getting used to, but I want to be more like American students in this way.”

Lemona presents Westford Principal Antonelli with her thank you card and a woven traditional Chinese charm for luck.

When asked for her perspective as an educator, Ms.Wang found that the exchange program had been helpful to her as well. As a teacher on the international campus in China, Ms.Wang said she and her colleges “often discuss what education in America is like, but I had not experienced it firsthand. As a math teacher, I think math can be hard to learn for some students, but I have gotten a chance to see how American teachers present the subjects so that it is more interesting and accessible. For example, the decorations in the classrooms are tools for the teachers. Even if the material taught is not as in depth, they make sure each student learns it well.”

New Friendships

Many students were sad that the program was ending so soon, but enjoyed themselves at the final celebration. Westford Academy’s Principal, Mr.James Antonelli dropped by to share cake and congratulate each student personally on finishing the exchange program. Afterwards, the Beijing No.4 students, dressed formally in their school uniforms, thanked Mr.Antonelli and shared warm embraces with their host students and families.

Old and new friends from Westford and Beijing No.4 link arms in the cafeteria.

As the celebration wound down, students and teachers exchanged final gifts. Students rushed to share their evaluations from Westford teachers with Ms.Wang. When asked how she thought the students did, Ms.Wang laughs. “I think knowledge or tests is important, but not the most vital thing. For them to experience the American classroom now in their education is a valuable thing. It will make it easier for them to live in the US later.” Ms.Wang says with a smile as she watches the students play a free-spirited game of table tennis in the cafeteria. “I know the students have gained a lot more confidence.”

Beijing No.4 students hold up a photo collage from their stay at Westford Academy. A treasured memento for sure!

Learn more about our outcomes-driven Exchange Programs that can give your school community a powerful advantage while helping students realize their dream of studying abroad.