October 1, 2007

Welcome to Minnesota

Students from China stay with NHS students

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Since 2005, Delano National Honor Society (NHS) students have not only had the privilege of traveling to China over spring break, but also, they were each able to host a Chinese student in their own homes.

The exchange time has come once again for NHS students Robert McMullen, Bethany Locklear, Charlie Gallagher, Amanda Doboszenski, Sarah Bingea, and Amy Prok.

When it comes to selecting the students to travel, there is no pulling names from a hat. Each student must fill out an application and write an essay about why they would be an appropriate selection for the exchange.

After the essays are reviewed by past teachers who have traveled to China, each student is interviewed.

As excited as these students are to travel overseas in March, they also feel more than honored to welcome their students to Delano.

As a group, the students and their exchange students are planning to travel to the Mall of America and the State Capitol, but of course, each student will get the full tour of the school and the town of Delano, itself.

When asked about their trip in March, Bingea commented, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Locklear added, “You’ll get to experience new cultures that you’ve never seen before.”

McMullen, who has taken Aixue Wang’s Chinese course in school, is eager to communicate with the Chinese. Although not fluent, he feels assured that he has the basics.

All anticipate what differences the country will show in comparison to Minnesota.

The girls of the group are very excited to do what girls do best: shopping. The food is a debatable subject, as well as the ‘Chinese toilet.’ However, as the students know, reading and talking about China can only take a person so far. The next step is to settle in the culture – live, breathe, and smell China.

Delano special education teacher Leo Pospichal has traveled to China six times over the past years. For him, China has touched his heart in more ways than he would have ever imagined.

In the beginning, Pospichal recalled, “We were all a part of the China club and it was just my turn to go.”

The China club was a group of teachers who sold candy after school to raise funds for teachers to travel to China.

As far as culture shock goes, Pospichal said, “I think anybody that goes to China realizes that it’s just so different. It takes about three days to realize that it’s really different. Once I made that shift in my mind, I was able to understand.”

For Pospichal, the most amazing aspect of China was the kindness of the people.

Pospichal said, “Their culture there is, of course, thousands of years old compared to our hundreds of years old, but the big thing for me was the kindness of the people. They call me their brother. That’s really what’s made us keep going back – the relationships we’ve developed.”

“These people would take us out to dinner and treat us like kings and queens – royalty. And I would tell Ren, my close friend, ‘Do they know in America that I’m just a shmuck?’ That really amazed me, but that’s just the way the Chinese people are. The kindness, generosity and love comes straight from their hearts.

“The families are different in China. They are much closer in China. Families in China really take care of one another – kind of like the way America used to be. They remind me of America years ago,” Pospichal said.

Other areas that amazed Pospichal were the food. Semi-expecting to dislike the food, he found it to be wonderful. He also was very surprised to see so few families that own cars.

“Really and truly,” Pospichal commented, “it’s all about getting used to the way people live there. It’s different. As a teacher, it was different walking into their schools, seeing 50 to 60 students in a class. I thought, ‘this is insane.’”

Pospichal was astounded to discover that the schools do not keep grade books. Their entire grade is based on a final test.

As far as schooling goes, it is very competitive. There are very few universities in China, and very few students are accepted.

However, Pospichal soon discovered the joy and eagerness to learn in all the students. He was praised and treated like a celebrity while visiting classrooms.

“When you walked in a room, the kids would clap for you, ask for your autograph, want to take your picture, want to take you out for supper. That part was just amazing,” said Pospichal.

Returning home, Pospichal brought a little bit of China with him. No longer does he drink coffee like the typical American. He drinks green tea “like it’s going out of style.”

He’s gotten to the point where he eats less meat and more vegetables, like the Chinese.

More than anything, Pospichal took back with him a greater appreciation for what he and the population of America have.

“We have a lot going for us here. I don’t like it when people compare Chinese education to American education because it’s like comparing bananas and oranges,” said Pospichal. “In America, everybody goes to college if they want to. In China, that’s just not the case.”

In China, there are more people under the age of 14 than there are total in the United States. With all those mouths to feed, there is very little waste in China.

The pollution in China is worse than any of our dirtiest cities in the United States.

“When they come here, it amazes them to be able to look up to the sky and see clear blue. That’s a privilege that we all take for granted,” Pospichal said.

As well as food and clean skies, space is very limited. A two bedroom apartment is highly uncommon. Only the top business owners in China live like the middle class do in America. ‘Houses’ are nearly unheard of.

Overall, Pospichal feels more than honored to have had this opportunity and he wants to return the kindness to his fellow “brothers and sisters” when they visit Minnesota.

After only being in Minnesota for a few days, the Chinese already felt more than honored to bestow their comments about the differences and similarities.

Locklear’s student, Joy, gleefully remarked, “I like the people. They are very enthusiastic. The school is very colorful, but the weather is very cold.”

McMullen’s student, Leo, also commented, “It’s very beautiful here. Of course, the girls are very beautiful, too.”

Tracy, Bingea’s student, has trouble with the language. He said, “Speak English is very hard.”

Alice, Dobozenski’s student, added, “I think the students here are very friendly and interesting.”

It’s been an adjustment for all the students. Prok’s student found the greatest difference in the food.

“My favorite part about in America is the food,” Amy said. “I like the bread. The food is different. In China, we eat vegetables. Here, you eat the bread and the meat.”

Sun Yujuan, administrator of Purple Cloud School, was more than happy to say, “We feel that your community and school have very distinctive features. In addition to that, we feel that the American people are very warm. The weather here is pleasant and there is very little air pollution.”

“We attach great love towards this relationship we have and we hope to continue this in the future,” added Xiao Zongxi, principal of the Purple Cloud School.

Pospichal hopes that as a school, Delano High School will continue its friendship with the Chinese, but an even greater hope is that the students stay in touch. Friends are friends and they are only a phone call away. Pospichal and many others, who have traveled to China, continuously e-mail to their host family.

For more information about traveling to China, or sending a student to China, feel free to chat with Pospichal.

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