For 10 days last month, The New Century School welcomed some very special visitors all the way from China—24 students ranging in age from 7 to 13 years old, and their 2 chaperones Bella (a teacher) and Mark (an education administrator). The group represents the first Winter Exchange Program TNCS has hosted (other similar programs have taken place during the summer).
The program was designed to immerse Chinese students in a Western experience, so they attended school at TNCS and were hosted by a Baltimore family, who opened their homes to the young visitors and made them feel truly welcome. Host families were given helpful tips for how to ease their guests into their new environment, such as:
- Identify a safe place for students to store passport and cash sums of money
- Have a quick conversation about safety in the city (e.g., do not leave the house without asking, no playing in the street)
- Let them know how you will wake them up in the morning, and at what time
- Keep in mind they will be jet-lagged and may have trouble sleeping the first few nights
- They are not accustomed to drinking cold water; room temperature or warm is preferred
- They will prefer hot meals; please limit sandwich type meals
- Cut fruit is a great snack, but cut vegetables will likely be unappetizing
- They do not eat extremely spicy food
(Ever wondered about hosting an exchange student? Read Why You (Yes You!) Should Consider Becoming a Host Family.)
Each of the 10 days was action packed to make sure that the students were getting the fullest possible experience. Bella kept her own blog, which you can view here in English or Chinese. Kerrigan Dougherty acted as TNCS Program Coordinator and escorted the group on their various excursions. She describes the program in her own words:
This exchange was an opportunity for some friends from China to come over and spend some time in an American school, both to see what classes are like, what meals are like, as well as to see landmarks and classic monuments, as we’ll be spending part of our 10 days in Baltimore and a couple of days in Washington, D.C. The kids came from a variety of schools in China, but all are affiliated with the Rise Centers [see post], which are after-school and weekend programs that provide additional schooling. Although the first 48 hours were tricky due to the physical adjustments the kids’ bodies need to make to be on our time, once they did so, everything has gone very nicely. And they are really enjoying the program! They have been pretty easy to manage overall—just like any kid, they need to eat and to be warm, and they don’t like sitting still for too long. They all have different likes and dislikes, so we make sure there are quite a variety of activities. Sometimes they are in class with their American buddies; sometimes they go out on independent trips, such as for hot chocolate or visiting local shops. There’s a lot of joy and fun, and the level of engagement definitely increased steadily as the days went on. I’m so grateful that they made the trip here.
On Monday 1/16 (MLK, Jr. Day), they had an orientation session at TNCS, received special backpacks, and then jumped right in. They enjoyed a cooking class and spent lots of time in the gymnasium playing with the Imagination Playground and climbing on the Gerstung equipment, as you can see above.
The next day was an actual school day, so the Chinese students attended classes alongside TNCS elementary and middle school students and then enjoyed some extracurricular activities like LEGO camp and FutureMakers. It was gratifying to see how quickly they adapted to their new surroundings, and they did not suffer from shyness!
Wednesday was drumming day. Program coordinators had the brilliant idea of forming a “Bucket Band,” and Chinese and TNCS students alike absolutely loved this experience. From here on out, this became a frequent pursuit, with “Mr. Yoshi” leading the band.
Likewise, on all school days, the students were given lots of opportunity to brush up on and review their English-language speaking skills.
On Thursday, after some classroom time, the students got out to explore Fell’s Point as well as Fort McHenry to do some historical sightseeing.
Then, on Friday, 1/20, the group traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration of the United States’ 45th president—what a treat! They got to see just about the most American thing possible!
The weekend that followed included trips to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Smithsonian Institute back in D.C.—oh, and lunch at the Hard Rock Café.
Once the school week started back up, the students hit some local spots like Pitango Bakery and Brick Oven Pizza (B.O.P.) where they even got to prepare food at both locations.
They closed out their last couple of days bonding with their new TNCS friends and playing games such as Ping Beep Beep, a math game.
On their penultimate day, they attended a graduation ceremony and after party at a neighbor’s house. TNCS bade them farewell on Wednesday, January 25th, and the parting was difficult, as it’s easy to imagine after such intense bonding had taken place.
TNCS’s graphic artist Yuyin created a slideshow to commemorate the occasion. View it here.
This 2017 Winter Exchange Program was a huge success. Bella and Mark attested that their students had the time of their lives and were very happy with the experience. Fortunately, this promises to be the first of many!