The 16-year-olds were visiting schools in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., and had extra time in their schedule that a Pennsylvania tour company was tasked with filling, according to Tiffany McQueary, associate director of marketing and admissions at Marist.
“They were in charge of hosting the group and were asked to find a school the students could visit for a cultural exchange: shadowing our students for the day and attending a school function in the evening,” McQueary said. “It all worked for us because the date they needed was the day of our Winter Dance.”
But more than just filling a gap, there were significant conversations and maybe lifelong friendships formed.
A seven-hour school day with the Chinese students is one that sophomore Ashley Marion, 15, won’t soon forget.
“Just meeting someone from China was a great experience,” she said. “I had never met a person from China.
“One of the best parts was at lunch; we were laughing and talking about education and our lives at school,” Marion said. “We were just enjoying each others’ company.”
One Marist student described the Chinese visitors as “kind” and “polite.”
During the day, the students from the two countries discussed the differences in their educational systems, accomplished with the help of three on-site interpreters.
The American students were surprised to learn that the Chinese students had nine- and 10-hour school days, and that they were much more advanced in some areas than their American counterparts.
“One girl talked about taking geometry since 8 years old, and I’m just taking it now,” Marion said.
And while none of the American students could speak Chinese, a few of the Chinese students could speak some English.
Things in common
As the students shared their experiences and interests, it became apparent that they had a lot more in common than they had originally thought.
“We talked about sports, we talked about basketball and how we like to play it,” Marion said. “We talked about sports in general.”
Another common interest: the universal language.
“We talked about music, and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber,” Marion said, laughing. “That was one thing we had in common.”
Good-byes and emails
Soon, the day was over, and the good-byes began. The Chinese and American students exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch and continue the friendships which had been born.
“If we were to consider doing the experience again, I would, because it was a pleasure having them,” Marion said.
Highlights: education and fun
What’s the main thing this American student took away from the day and exchanges with her new Chinese friends?
“How we should value all education, and not let it go to waste,” Marion said. “Be grateful for education, because there are people out there who don’t have it and probably want it.”
After spending most of the day at Marist, the Chinese students returned in the evening for fun at the high school’s annual Winter Dance.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.