Six Chinese teenagers shadowed Yosemite High School students last week. The visitors were paired with a Mountain Area host family, all of whom have a student in the YHS International Baccalaureate (IB) program. They attended classes with their American counterparts, rooted at soccer games, and sampled typical home life. The purpose of this six-day visit was to give the Chinese teens an idea of what American education entails, which could help them determine if they would like to return to the states to attend school in the future.
Yue Zhai, 17, and Yu Xie, 15, were the only two of the six to speak some English. This is Yu’s first trip to the U.S., and Zhai’s second. His first time was three years ago, when he went to a Los Angeles Lakers game with his father.
Zhai is staying with the Stieler family.
“Kelsi and her family are very nice and very cool. Kelsi is my best friend here in the U.S.,” he said. “I don’t want to leave tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 13), and will be taking the SAT to attend UCLA.” Zhai’s older sister currently attends Berkeley.
“This is a good school and we have fewer students in our school. The teachers are also very interesting here. Usually, we sit in the classroom listening to the teacher speak. We don’t have fun in classes in China,” Xie said. She hopes to return to the states in August to attend a New York high school.
The Chinese students had just participated in Carole Calderwood’s IB biology class, where assigned groups had to come up with little tunes (like YMCA) to explain the Krebs cycle, a part of cellular respiration, a series of chemical reactions used by all aerobic organisms to generate energy. The Chinese students were also excited about having made cards in Spanish class.
“The primary reason Chinese students want to study in the U.S. is because their educational system is outdated,” YHS Guidance Counselor and International Student Coordinator Stephanie Samuels said. “They do not foster creativity or higher level reasoning. They study and they work hard but they are conditioned to learn through repetition rather than think for themselves. Their teaching methods are outdated and the students coming from Chinese schools are unprepared to contribute to today’s innovative environment. The country is looking to education in the western hemisphere not only for their students, but also to train their teachers in creating or guiding their curriculum.”
Brian, who said he has traveled to South Africa, Canada, Japan, Europe, believes California is the best place to live. Of course, that may be partially due to the fact that he’s a huge basketball fan, and Kobe Bryant and his beloved Lakers reside in southern California.
“So far it has been a great experience for all involved. Any time we have students from other parts of the world it becomes an opportunity for cultural enrichment,” Samuels added. “The teachers are including them in class activities ... families have been wonderful hosts ... and the YHS students have gone above and beyond what I was expecting. I know I say this all the time, but we are so lucky at YHS to have such great kids.”