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SCV hosts exchange students

Four youths from China compare life in Saugus, life at home

Posted: September 15, 2009 11:09 p.m.
Updated: September 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Host Family members Shari Ane, left, and daughter Keani, 14, right, pose with Chinese exchange student "Elizabeth" Bitian Chen as she visits the United States and studies at Saugus High School for five months.

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Chinese sophomore Yichao Gao chose to come to America for his foreign-exchange experience because of what he thought it represented: a land of opportunity with copious amounts freedom and prosperity.

So when Gao chose the Americanized name he would answer to for the next five months, he chose to take the name of someone who exemplified those ideals.

“I like Bill Gates very much, so I chose Bill,” Gao said. “Another reason is Principal Bill Bolde (of Saugus High School). So my name is Bill: Bill Gates, Bill Bolde and Bill Gao.”

Gao and four other students took on American-sounding names as part of the Hart District’s foreign-exchange student program, in which five Chinese students and a teacher have come to the Santa Clarita Valley, and eight to 10 Saugus High School students and a teacher go to China.

Over the course of the program, kids and instructors alike learn about language, culture and lifestyle differences and similarities between the two cultures.

Since their arrival in late August, the students and teacher of Gao Xin No. 1 in China have already developed opinions about the American lifestyle and student.

“Students here have lots of time after school. They can do anything they want,” Gao said. “But in our country, because we are busy with our studies, you do homework.”

The exchange students’ teacher also had insight on the differences in the learning environment of the American student.

“They are more active and creative and they are interested in being asked by teachers,” Yanjun Wu said.

She also observed that the American students raise their hands in class more often than the students in China do.

“They (Chinese students) know the answer, (but) they are modest.”

The Saugus High School students, who spend two months in China over the summer for school credit, have also noticed educational differences.  

“They definitely have more core classes,” said Careese Quon, a Saugus exchange student and current host sister senior. “I noticed in high school, either a student would take biology one year and then chemistry the next. But in China, they study them all together.”

The Saugus exchange students in China begin their school days at 7 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. The Chinese native students, on the other hand, end at 6.p.m. or later.

Aside from adjusting to a culturally different learning system, the Chinese students are adjusting to life with their new host families who make sure their host students are getting the best experience of America.

Exchange student Elizabeth Chen is especially enjoying her new host family: she has no siblings at home and now the China Exchange Program has given her the experience of three new host sisters.

“They are all friendly girls,” said Chen. “Nice girls, and I like them very much.”

“The Morp dance came up and she wanted to go,” said Chen’s host sister, freshmen Keani Ane. “So we introduced her to the neon colors and putting some makeup on. That was a good experience for her. She had a good time at the dance.”

The program’s lessons weren’t confined to the classroom — or the students and teachers, for that matter.

“It’s been more fun than I ever thought it would be,” said host mom Karen Burgess about the experience of hosting Gao. “It’s like seeing it through a brand new baby’s eyes: very excited. I hope he learns that Americans are very welcoming to them and very friendly and very eager to learn from them as well as share our experiences with them.”

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