By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN From Nike shoes to apple pie, Delano High School recently gave 14 Chinese exchange students and six teachers a taste of America.
“It was a lot of fun,” said senior Evan Lemmerman, who hosted student Xing Yun Zhao (English name “Gustaff”). “We had them here for five days.”
The students and teachers arrived about 1 a.m. Sept. 23.
“My kid had five cups of coffee on the 14-hour flight,” Lemmerman laughed.
In Delano, NHS members (and sometimes students taking Chinese classes) are given the opportunity to go to Purple Cloud (Delano’s sister school in Tanggu, China) for about 10 days their junior year.
Then, in the fall of their senior year, those same students host a Chinese visitor.
Senior Ellie Moonen, who stayed with the family of Xie Yuwei (English name “Rain”) in 2010, was excited for Rain’s visit.
“I loved her,” Moonen said. “She was so cute and her English was so good.”
Lemmerman said Gustaff’s English was also excellent.
“It was almost like talking to one of my friends here, except there was a lot less sarcasm,” he said.
In China, the students take a test to see who will be chosen to host. They must demonstrate English skills and the ability to adjust to American customs.
“They go through a big interview process,” said Delano High School’s National Honor Society advisor Lanette Faul, who has been to China three times.
The Chinese student’s parents are also interviewed, and their home is examined to ensure that it is adequate for housing a student.
Their first few days in America, the Chinese students and teachers observed classes in Delano, tried a few cooking and art classes, and participated in gym activities.
“They came during homecoming week, and it was hard to explain the concept to them,” Moonen said. “I was a homecoming candidate, and tried to explain what a king and queen were.”
Prom and homecoming aren’t part of Chinese schools, so the idea was totally foreign, Moonen said.
“They come here to see how our schools work, more than anything,” said Faul, who hosted two of the teachers.
“What amazes them is that students move, not the teachers,” Faul said, explaining that in China, students stay in one classroom throughout the day, and teachers switch from room to room.
Another major difference is the amount of time spent in school.
In China, the school day is Monday through Saturday from about 7:30 a.m. until 4 or 6 p.m., depending on grade level and exam schedules. Classes are 45 minutes long, with 10-minute breaks in between, and a one-hour lunch break.
Lemmerman remembers that when he went to China, his host parents spent long hours at work, as well. They only had one child, because of the country’s policy designed to limit population growth.
“Everything’s different there,” Lemmerman said.
The Chinese students and teachers had the opportunity to visit Mall of America on the weekend, which Lemmerman describes as “an experience.”
“It was eye-opening,” he said. “By the end of the day, some of them had spent $400 to $500. They all wanted the brand-name things.”
Moonen said the students spent several hours looking at Nike shoes and Levi’s jeans.
“In China, the stores mostly have knock-offs,” she said.
In addition to shopping, the Chinese visitors had the opportunity to try American food.
“We had pizza, burgers, and apple pie,” Lemmerman said. “We tried to summarize America.”
“She [Rain] really liked oatmeal,” Moonen said. “It was her first time having it.”
The group also went to several area restaurants, and toured the state capitol and the University of Minnesota.
In the spring, 15 juniors from Delano High School are planning to visit China, and continue the adventure.