AUBURN, Mass. — As they posed for a photograph in the high school cafeteria, Auburn students and visiting students from China came together to form a heart — a testament to the global relationships they had been building throughout the week.
Auburn High School recently hosted 130 students from five schools across Beijing, part of their continued effort to promote international education and open up relationships across the globe.
The relationship began last year, when the district hosted a team of teachers led by Ethan Feng, from Beijing Normal High School, who were interested in starting a U.S. style Advanced Placement program.
After the success of the first visit, the team arranged to return in order to have students spend the day at an American high school to see their academic and extracurricular activities in action.
"Feng wanted his students to come to a real American high school that is comprehensive and has sports and drama, and all of the activities that they don't have in China," said Auburn teacher Donna Heidemann. "Their days go from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and are structured, academic classes."
Di Duan, a team leader, said many of the students came because they hope to attend college in the U.S. or Europe, and wanted to gain an understanding of American education.
For instance, she said her students were excited when they saw how the Auburn teachers engaged the students in group thought, using discussions to lead students on the right track rather than lecturing for rote memorization.
To further help embed the visiting students into a typical high school day, they were paired with Auburn students who were active in AP classes, Model UN and International Club.
This also allowed students to bond over a variety new experiences and begin to forge cross-cultural relationships, whether it was from Auburn students learning how to eat with chopsticks to Chinese students seeing their first hockey game.
"It's really opened up conversations about what freedoms we have and what choices we have, but it's also made our students see China as less one-dimensional, and see the richness of it and what they bring to the table."
"One of the students came to me and said he had a blast," said Heidemann. "He said he had so much fun, and they had already become friends and were emailing each other. That's so special, that they could be creating international friendships."