By Ellen Morris
A group of Chinese high school students experienced Vermont culture during a one-week visit coordinated by the University of Vermont, the Ameson Education and Cultural Exchange Foundation, and three local high schools.
Families from Burlington, Stowe, and Champlain Valley Union High Schools hosted 18 Sino-American Youth Ambassadors and two teacher chaperones. The schools planned special activities for visitors, including a visit to the Vermont Statehouse, a snowshoeing outing, and making dumplings to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Horse. Visiting students also attended class with a student from each host family.
The visit was in the planning stages for several months. Over a year ago, UVM Continuing and Distance Education (CDE) connected with the Ameson Education and Cultural Exchange Foundation regarding the opportunity to host a group of high school students from China to visit Vermont schools. The foundation is a non-profit, non-government organization that facilitates cultural exchanges throughout the world. Over the past year, CDE worked to identify Vermont high schools who were interested in hosting students from China for one week in January.
At the week’s end, host families brought their visitors to the CDE office in Burlington. As families and students hugged goodbye, the words heard most often were, “…come back!” According to several host families and their children, the experience was an enriching one. The Chinese students remarked how friendly the students were, and that they enjoyed engaging with so many excellent teachers. One student expressed interest in returning next fall for her senior year of high school, and others asked about attending UVM.
While on campus for their last day in Vermont, the visiting students met with two CDE staff to learn about opportunities to take college courses at UVM. They also spoke with a US-Sino Pathway Program student about college life. All too soon, the visitors boarded their chartered bus for the last leg of their journey in America, which included a sight-seeing excursion to Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.
We now plan to engage more high schools to participate in next year’s exchange and spread the word about the bright, enthusiastic ambassadors who stole our hearts and embraced Vermont.
Ellen Morris is a program developer at UVM Continuing and Distance Education.