by Xu Jing, Xing Yue and Liu Yang
CHICAGO, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- A one-year exchange program bringing a group of Chinese students has added diversity and international perspective to a public high school in U.S. Midwest state of Wisconsin.
Thirty-one high school students from China are now enrolled at Craig High School, one of the two public high schools in the City of Janesville in southern Wisconsin, thanks to a program called Janesville International Education Program (JIEP).
Under the program, the Janesville School District is also sending their students studying Chinese as a second language to China every year. It sent 12 students to China last year and prepares to send 14 to 16 students this year.
"The motivation of the program is relationship and international friendship... to create the cultural understanding between U.S. and China," Mary Christensen, JIEP Coordinator, told Xinhua. "The school district had a great interest in partnering internationally to bring diversity to increase international exchange opportunities for students here in Janesville and abroad."
There are many families that do not have the financial means to travel abroad, but the kids are eager for that experience of meeting their peers, practicing language and being immersed in the culture of other countries.
"If we don't have as many families here that have the means to do that, why not bring them to us," Christensen said, citing creating cultural awareness, global citizenship, opportunities for those firsthand interactions between students and teachers as the teaching strategies and principles.
The program provides opportunities to all Chinese students coming to Janesville for study to live with host families.
"Many of the (Chinese) kids live with other kids that they go to school with. They have a host sibling, a host brother, host sister. They really become community members and they learn what it's like for an American family, for an entire school year," Christensen stressed. "They are really immersed in that."
Since the first Chinese student was enrolled and came to Janesville in 2013, the School District of Janesville has adopted measures to increase the immersion of Chinese students in American society.
It has created a club called "international buddies" that automatically takes students from China as its members while taking in American students who are taking another language and interested in the international business classes. The club would organize events for students to hang out with each other.
It also organizes field trips. Chinese students are required to attend at least one school event to spend time with friends outside of their group.
The school district sends teachers to China every summer to work on curriculum to make sure that Chinese students are learning the same things that their American counterparts are learning, and has an international school counselor helping them with college advising.
"Janesville has become very open-minded about Chinese culture and they've really embraced it," Christensen told Xinhua. Many of these Chinese students went to U.S. universities. When they were back in the United States, they would check in with their host families, or would call host families and ask: "can I come by for Thanksgiving?"
"They've really created a lifelong friendship," Christensen said.
"I adore Chinese students," she said. "Many times when we go on a school visit and they welcome us, they're so proud of their English and they're so excited to share what they're learning. And I'm very impressed with just the children in general at how eager they are to learn and how friendly they are."
Chinese people are welcoming, friendly and curious. "They have curiosity about us and our culture and always the curiosity to learn new things and to be open minded to a program like this," Christensen added.
"I am so proud of what we are able to do for all the kids, the Chinese and the American kids," Robert Smiley, director of international programs and chief information officer for the School District of Janesville, told Xinhua when talking of the program.