April 16, 2014

Medina
Mostly sunny
35°F

Technology makes exchanges easier for foreign students

GRANGER TWP. — Hosting an exchange student is a lot easier in 2013 than it was 10 years ago.

For host families of 15 Chinese exchange students at Highland High School, language barriers can be broken down easily with a smartphone application.

From left, Madeline Bigley shares a moment with Chinese guests Xuanxuan “Clovis” Tang and Tao “Vivian” Huan at a welcome breakfast Saturday at Highland High School in Granger Township. (COURTESY PHOTO)

“Their English is really good, but if there’s a word they don’t know, they can put the character in their phone and it translates into English,” Highland senior Bradley Small said. The family of Small, 17, and his sister Bailey, 15, is hosting student Patrick Xu, also 15.

Patrick is one of 15 students from China who will spend two weeks with host families in the Highland school district as part of an exchange program with Nanwu High School in Guangzhou, China.

Bradley and Bailey said they have spent a lot of time playing pool with Patrick.

“He’s really good at math, and so he’s actually really good at pool, even though he’s never played,” Bailey said. “That’s all he wants to play now when we’re home.”

The Chinese students, who speak Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese along with English, are here to learn much more than just the language, said their English teacher Tao “Vivian” Huan.

“We want them to learn how (American) students do their social life stuff,” Huan said. “Learn how the parents raise the kids, just have a full American experience.”

Doris Wei, 15, said she was excited to see snow because not everyone in the class had seen it before.

“I think the snow is very beautiful,” she said. “And the American food, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, is good.”

Xuanxuan “Clovis” Tang, 15, said she was struck by how much interaction there is in an American classroom compared to the classes in Nanwu.

“The teachers are all so nice and humorous,” she said. “It’s very relaxed and (the students) are free to talk and share what they think.”

Clovis said in typical Chinese classrooms, teachers do all the talking while students remain silent and take notes.

Since the exchange students arrived Saturday, they have made a group trip to Cleveland, and plan to take smaller outings around the region with host families.

Highland Principal Dana Addis and four teachers will travel to China in late March to early April to explore Nanwu High School, its students, staff and educational practices.

“We want to learn about their student-centered classrooms, their philosophy on homework, their assessment techniques and their overall school environments,” Addis said.

The group includes science teacher Chris Luker, social studies teacher Chris Kestner and English teachers Tracy Goebel and Bruce Folkerth. The trip is possible through a $5,000 grant from The Highland Foundation for Educational Excellence.

To follow the visit from Nanwu students, visit www.facebook.com/HHSTeamChina.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.