International education

ttuell@sierrastar.comAugust 20, 2013 

This year not only have two high schoolers changed schools, they've changed continents. Johnny Zhang, 14, of Shanghai, China, began his first day as a freshman Monday at Yosemite High School and Travis Ma, 16, of Chifeng, Mongolia, began his first day as a junior.

Moving to Oakhurst that has a population of more than 13,000 is quite a transition from Shanghai that has a population of more than 23 million and Chifeng that has a population of 4.6 million. However, the teens' mother's — Susan Cxi, Johnny's mother, and Jennifer Fan, Travis' mother — think this change is best for their son's futures. Cxi and Fan said they treasure their sons very much because they each only have one son, and they hope Zhang and Ma will receive a good education in order to go to a top American university.

The idea came to fruition after a former college classmate of Cxi's introduced her to Dwight and Stephanie Samuels (Stephanie is a counselor at YHS). Friends since college, Cxi and Fan also wanted their sons to have a different educational experience that they would have in China.

"Most of the kids are serious and concentrated on studies and don't have much fun or time for sports," Cxi said. "Jennifer and I think it's a nice opportunity for the two boys to have a different cultural experience and try a different educational system. We wish them to be more healthy, strong, creative, and independent."

Ma said he's been wanting to learn at an English school, and he is looking forward to a more relaxed atmosphere. Both Ma and Zhang are also excited to participate in cross country.

There are quite a few differences between education in China and U.S. Schools. Days are much shorter in the U.S. — a normal school day in China is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In China, students remain in one classroom throughout the day instead of walking to different rooms as they do in the U.S. Students also have no choice in their high school classes.

"It's a pleasure to come here and a big opportunity," Zhang said. "The people here are friendly, it's beautiful here and we can receive a better education here."

The two, along with their mother, have already been experiencing some California adventures since they arrived Aug. 11 in Oakhurst. So far they've been to Yosemite, gone boating on Bass Lake, enjoyed their first barbecue and tried tacos for the first time. They've even seen deer, a bobcat and a raccoon.

"Everything is so different from the place we live," Cxi said. "We can imagine the two boys can have a very good time here. Stephanie and Dwight gave us such a hospitable welcome and we can't thank them enough. We also went to Yosemite High School and met the principal and all the staff there and everyone is so nice and friendly just like this town."

Both teens will be staying with YHS registrar Jeanne Ratchford.

"My nest has been empty for a couple of years as my three boys are grown and gone," Ratchford said. "My boys all graduated from Yosemite High School and I've worked there for 15 years. I can't think of a better place to give Johnny and Travis a wonderful impression of the United States and its people. I'm also an avid photographer and look forward to showing them the beauty of our mountains and the State of California. It's going to be an adventure filled year."

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