The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 21, 2013

Chinese exchange students visit Milton Area High School

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— MILTON — It was hard to hear above the classroom chatter that spanned three languages — English, Spanish and Chinese — in the English as a second language classroom at Milton Area Senior High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Students talked excitedly about everything from sports to religion, all in the hopes of learning a little bit about a new culture.

Ten students and one teacher from Heibei Middle School — which encompasses students in 10th through 12th grades — in Zhengding, China, about 160 miles south of Beijing, are visiting Milton High as part of an exchange program between the two schools.

The group visited the ESL class as part of their week at the school. Liu Fei, who teaches English at Heibei, said the students have been having a blast in central Pennsylvania.

“We have two weeks (in America). Next week we will be going to New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.,” he said. “But I have had some students come to me and say, ‘I don’t want to go. I want to stay here longer.’”

There are several new things the students have gotten to experience, including the school’s annual Snow Dance, which was held Sunday.

“We don’t have any activities like this (in China),” Fei said, explaining that students instead participate in evening activities at the live-in school such as music lessons, calligraphy or kung fu.

Class sizes at Milton are much smaller than at Heibei, where more than 6,000 students attend.

“For a school, it’s a good thing,” he said. “You can reach every student.”

Milton Principal Bryan Noaker said he wants to make sure the Chinese students get as much time as possible to experience typical classes and activities to see how different things are between the U.S. education system and China’s.

“I think when they have time to sit back and reflect on it, it’s really going to sink in,” Noaker said.

The Chinese students were selected for the trip after an application process, which included examinations of the students’ English abilities, extracurricular activities and their character, Fei said.

Noaker and Fei said plans are in the works for Milton students to travel to Zhengding to learn about the Chinese education system. Noaker visited the school last April, and Fei acted as his translator.

“We have prepared almost everything,” Fei said. “We will talk about an exact date later.”