American Teenage experience – 6,563 miles from home

Just as the school year was getting underway for our community, we greeted a new group of friends for a brief exchange student program. While Jenison Public Schools has a rich and diverse history of welcoming international students over the past 30 years to Jenison High School, this short term experience is fairly new and slightly different.

In the 4th year of our partnership with the Rotman Education Technology Group, it was an absolute privilege to welcome 23 students from Beijing#12 school. These students are in their Junior year and already part of an international program, giving them some amazing global study abroad experiences. They arrived on September 27 and met the families with whom they would live. In true Jenison fashion, these amazing, hospitable folks embraced them with open arms. We cannot thank these families enough for opening their homes and caring for these students so deeply!

Between choosing and attending classes, field trip events and Homecoming celebrations, the Beijing students had a packed (but fun) schedule. Attending American high school gave them a taste of American teenage culture and they learned alot about the cultural differences between America and China. The Beijing students also felt that they gained confidence in speaking English with their new American friends, which they think will be beneficial in continuing their studies in China. A huge thank you to our Jenison students who took the time to get to know their global peers and help them along during their days.

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Beijing #12 students at the start of a very busy two weeks. Many use this short term trip to decide if they’d like to return to the states for a long term exchange program.

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Beijing students visiting downtown Grand Rapids for ArtPrize. Another favorite outing was shopping at the local mall for souvenirs to bring home.

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The enjoyed participating in Spirit Week leading up to Homecoming. Here they are, all dressed up and very excited to experience the 2018 Jenison Homecoming dance.

There’s no doubt that the students from Beijing benefit greatly from this program; but what about the students that call Jenison “home”?

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Emily Kaminski and a Beijing student at the closing ceremony.

Emily Kaminski, International Coordinator for this program through our Jenison International Academy shares, “Our exchange programs provide an opportunity for the Jenison community to experience and learn about a different culture, both in and out of the classroom. We believe it breaks down assumptions and preconceived notions we may have about a specific culture, and helps us see our similarities as well. At the core we are all people – and we see Jenison students being stretched and enlightened.”

“Concluding the visit, the students celebrate with their host families with a Closing Ceremony. I (Emily) saw families tearing up knowing their new family member was departing the next day. After just 2 weeks I heard the term ‘love’, and witnessed it many times between students and their host families! These interactions help me remember why we put all the work in for these exchanges…  Bringing people together, and creating meaningful, heartfelt relationships, that would not otherwise exist!”

There is much to gain and so many life lessons to be learned from each other through programs like these. We are eager to broaden horizons and build meaningful and lasting relationships with the students we are privileged to serve – domestic and abroad. As Emily said, when we take the time to see each other as fellow people, it simply puts us in a position to make the world a better place, that’s a win-win and worth every effort.

To see many more photos and videos of the Beijing #12 visit, check out the Rotman Education facebook page.

As the Jenison student exchange programs continue to grow, the need for Host Families (short and long term) grows as well.  If you’re interested in learning more or becoming a Host Family for one of these brave international students, please contact Jessie Clay at studentsupport@rottech.org or (616) 228-4495.

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