50th Edition, Global Education

China exchange going strong

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Jonathan Kay,
Volume 27
September 29, 1987

The exchange between students from Newton South and JingShan School in Beijing, China began in 1985 when a group of Chinese students were hosted by students from both Newton South and Newton North. Last year, students from two Newton schools had the opportunity to visit China, and this year, the JingShan School again sent representatives to Newton on September 9, 1987.
Mu-Dan Hai, who is living with junior Dan Rottenberg and his family, is South’s only exchange student this year. To participate in the program, Mu had to show that he was capable of making up the work he will miss while in America, and to write why he wanted to come to America:
“I want to study English, master English, to learn more about social customs, and see the most modern things, and to develop the friendship between our schools,” he wrote. Once accepted, Mu had to learn more modern English and read books about America.
Since his arrival in Newton, Mu has noticed some similarities and many differences between the lives of high school students in the United States and China. Out of school, students in China participate in similar activities as students in America, such as sports, Mu said. However, the JingShan School itself and its course requirements contrast with South greatly.
The JingShan School consists of only two buildings and the students are placed in one class with the same group of people for all of their courses. There is only one level for each subject.  Furthermore, students take more courses at the JingShan School than their counterparts at South. Last year, Mu took math, physics, chemistry, history, English, Chinese, politics, and physical education. He was also able to choose an elective.
Mu takes fewer courses at South, but must work hard to understand the teacher and text books which present the subject matter solely in English. Mu gets some assistance each day with his work from his host Dan Rottenberg. The reward of teaching and learning, however, goes both ways.
“At first, I was unsure about what to expect from the experience of housing an exchange student, especially one from such a contrasting culture. However, since Dan-hai’s arrival, we have been able to learn from each other’s differences, and his stay with us has become a positive experience for both me and my family,” Rottenberg said.
“One thing I am impressed with,” Rottenberg added, “is his ability to try new things.” Mu is eager to eat American food, and really wants to “put his heart into learning English.”
Outside of school, as well, Mu has been busy since his arrival. He has even attended a Saturday morning soccer practice with the Newton South team, participating fully in both the playing and the running.
Mu is happy with what he has seen and done in the short time he has been with the Rottenbergs. “Here the people are friendly and enthusiastic, and especially give me a very warm host family—like my home. I have gratitude,” Mu said.
Mu also said that he enjoyed a warm welcome. “‘My room is your room,’ Mr. Rottenberg said when I came here, and they give me more opportunity to understand America and see more and taste more.”

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