Making the exchange
JAFFREY-RINDGE: Local students traveled to China in April to meet their peers overseas; tables will be turned once again when 30 Chinese students visit the Mondanock region for the third consecutive year
As part of a summer exchange program, 30 teen students from China will be staying in Jaffrey and Rindge in July.
The 14-year-old students will attend English as a Second Language courses most weekdays and will participate in different activities, like field trips and civic tours with Jaffrey-Rindge students, who will serve as peer ambassadors.
This is the third consecutive summer Chinese students have visited the Monadnock region. The students will stay for 12 days, arriving on July 25 and leaving on Aug. 6. The program is sponsored by the Jaffrey-Rindge School District and coordinators are still looking for host families.
Conant High School junior Shannon Bennett was a peer ambassador last summer and her family hosted two Chinese girls. “The program is really fantastic, I got to meet a lot of great Chinese students and many of them could speak English very well. We got to have a lot of interesting conversations about her schools and how it different it is from here,” Bennett said in an interview last Wednesday.
Families housing students or teachers will receive a stipend to help them with food and transportation expenses. It is not necessary that host families have children at home. Program coordinators will put on a host family orientation training session in early July.
Conant High School teacher and program coordinator Paddy McCarthy said the exchange allows local communities to explore a different culture and experience. “For some host families, spending this time with an Asian students will be their first real intercultural experience,” McCarthy said in a recent interview.
The exchange program promotes bilingual learning for Chinese teens. However, for McCarthy, the most beneficial aspect of the program is the impact it has on local students.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the cultural exposure for our children,” McCarthy said.
Last summer, 12 Jaffrey-Rindge students were peer ambassadors for the program. Their duties included attending daily activities and sightseeing trips with the Chinese visitors and sharing American culture.
McCarthy said the program is a win-win for both Chinese students and the host communities.
“I am interested in it being an exchange opportunity for the Chinese children, but I’m more interested in the cultural experience for our kids here, in places like Jaffrey and Rindge, where we don’t have a lot of that,” she said.
McCarthy said she has received numerous applications from teens interested in being part of the program. “I think we will have more [peer ambassadors] this year than we did last year,” she said.
The program has proven to be popular among local students.
Bennett is one of the students interested in being a peer ambassador once again. “I’m taking time off work to be part of the program this year again. I am really excited about it,” Bennett said.
“Children really enjoy attending the activities. Last year, we hiked nearby mountains and picked blueberries, we went to the State House and did a picnic at Mount Monadnock,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also led a visit to China in April with seven American students, four from Conant High School and one from ConVal High School.
“We have had the Chinese students coming here, and we asked when will there be an opportunity for American students to travel to China?” McCarthy said.
The American students who went to China for two weeks had worked in the summer programs as peer ambassadors.
The group visited different Chinese cities like Beijing and Chongqing, hometown of the Chinese students that to New Hampshire last year.
Bennett was part of the group McCarthy took to China. Bennett stayed with a family that did not speak English. She said the experience allowed her to improve non-verbal communication skills and overcome the language barrier. “It was difficult at fist, but definitely very interesting and a true learning experience,” Bennett said.
The exchange program allowed students to have intercultural exposure, build connections and promote global friendship.
“We actually visited the students that came last year, we went to their school. They had a reception for us and 28 out of the 30 students that came last summer were at the reception. It was amazing. It was very emotional for everyone,” McCarthy said.