Chinese exchange students learning American ways

Published: Feb. 8, 2017 at 9:07 PM CST
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Over 30 students from Xi'an China are spending their 5-week school break in Kentucky.

A number of the high school students plan on attending college in the United States, Canada or Australia.

In the classrooms and down the hallways of Barren County High School, these exchange students have their sights set on success.

"We want to enjoy the American culture and the structure of American education," says one of the exchange students that goes by "Max. "We spend a long time in school, and we just study on paper. The American students, they're not. They can build things they want. They have a lot of freedom to decide what they want to do."

One of the students taking full advantage of her time in Kentucky is "Sissi".

"It's one of my dreams to be an artist," she says. It's her dream to work in animation or anime.

One teacher says the drive that these students show is makes teaching them a pleasure to teach.

"Welcoming the Chinese students is very easy," says Lauren Simmons. "Sissi, for example, wants to do art, so she's very interested, and picks up really quickly on everything that she does."

Those who have welcomed these international students into their homes, say the experience is just as rewarding for them as it is for their guests.

"It's so rewarding because after two days, you feel like they are your children," says Suzanne Ireland. "To say that they are family is not an overstatement. We will keep relationships with these children probably for the rest of their lives."

Ireland hosts one student as well as two teachers. She was also an instrumental part of getting this program to Barren County.

Ben Estes, who is a member of the family hosting "Max", says a great experience.

"The opportunity to bring someone into your home," he says, "and share with them the culture that you experience on a day-to-day basis, something that they've never been exposed to, to watch them experience it, it's truly amazing."

"In the American family," says "Max", "I feel that they love each other, and they are very close. I find love between the family and I'm very happy about that."

Another part of this exchange program gives students from Barren County a reciprocal invitation to visit and attend school with their new Chinese counterparts in Xi'an.

The school says there are a few people already considering it.