South Colonie Central High School students held a sign reading, We warmly welcome all Chinese Students to school, as they greeted students from the Tianjin No. 41 High School from the Tianjin Province in China who visited the school Tuesday, Feb. 15.
The 32 students and four teachers from the Chinese delegation were making several visits to area schools, including Bethlehem Central High School, Tech Valley High School, as well as schools in Schodack and Schoharie.
Some of the Chinese students had high praise for the American system of education, saying there is a lot of more freedom for American students to choose their fields of study.
`The difference with American schools is you can decide what you want to study,` said Chinese student Jessica Jia, a 10th-grader at Tianjin No. 41. `In China, they tell you what you have to study.`
Another student, 11th-grader John Wang, said Chinese students are usually in class from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., with a two-hour break in between for lunch, leaving them little time to pursue other interests.
`American schools have more time to do some interesting things,` he said. `In China, you don’t have much time for sports.`
This was the first time Jia and Wang have visited the United States, a trip that has included stops in New York City, which Wang called `very modern,` and Washington, D.C., which Jia referred to as `powerful.`
Both of them said they would like to return America for college, with Jia expressing an interest in the University of California at Berkley and Wang saying her would like to study law at Harvard.
The Chinese delegation was shown around many areas of the high school, and what piqued most of the students’ interests were the tech rooms, where Colonie students participate in the Project Lead the Way program.
Jack Gaynor, a junior at Colonie, acted as the guide for several of the Chinese students. He showed them around Chuck Spangler’s technology class as he described how students keep a journal of their daily progress on projects for their teachers to check on.
Tianjin students took pictures of the robotic projects, students working on Computer-aided design projects and a teacher’s car being worked on in the automotive engineering class. A chorus of `woah’s` was heard as some of the Chinese students peered into the wood shop class.
After a tour of the technology department, the students visited Laurinda Halliday’s Orchestra Class.
Gaynor said that while some of the students were in awe of some of the classes they were able to drop in on, he said some explanations might have gotten lost in translation.
`I’m not sure if they understood everything,` he said, adding that each language has its own form of slang. `I felt like, ‘Oh jeez, what am I going to tell them?’ It’s interesting how they perceive our language, grammatically. We use a lot of slang.`
Gaynor was impressed by how long Chinese students attend school and said they seem much more focused on their schoolwork then students in the U.S. As an engineering student, he said going over to China would be a great learning experience.
`It would be interesting to see another country’s ideas,` he said.
After the tour of the school was over, all of the American and Chinese students gathered in the auditorium as a question-and-answer session took place.
There, American students learned of the long class days and that Chinese students begin learning English at age 9. Principal David Wetzel asked the Chinese students if they like the sport of soccer, which the students quickly corrected him, calling it `football.`
Tianjin students also revealed that, if they choose to, they can begin learning how to play musical instruments at the age of 3 or 4. While there are computer labs at their school, most of the students said their parents do not allow a computer at home because it would take away from their studies.
But when the Chinese students were asked what kind of food they eat, they had some fun with the question.
`Chinese food,` some shouted.
Dr. Xu Changqun, principal of Tianjin No. 41 High School, was on his first visit to the U.S. He said he views the Tech Valley High School and theirs as `sister schools` and added that technology use has a great effect on a student’s studies.
`I think according to the visit to the American education system,` he said, `I think we can learn from each other.`
A Colonie student who was doing translations for the Chinese students, Linfeng Cao, a senior, had moved to the U.S. from China four years ago. She said she was excited to see so many of the students from China and recalled how different her learning experience over in China was compared to Colonie.
`I really like my classes here,` she said. `Teachers in China are more formal. Here, they are more like a friend.`
South Colonie Central School District Superintendent Jon Buhner said he was very excited about the visit from the Chinese delegation, saying that it was bridging an international gap between the two countries through its schools.
`We take great pride in the diversity at our school,` he said, adding that it’s important for the two schools to learn from each other in a changing world economy. `I’m a true believer in getting in a going on a trip and seeing how other people are doing things.`