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From China to Greenwich: Bridging Cultural Divides

Students, teachers from Beijing experience Greenwich High School.

 

East met West at Greenwich High School—in a gathering of Greenwich students who hosted 38 students and teachers from the Beijing 101 Middle School.

The Chinese students spent half the day Feb. 5 with their peers who are learning Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture and history. The visit culminated with a catered lunch of fried chicken, sub sandwiches, coleslaw and cookies in the GHS Media Center.

The Beijing students of the school described by officials as the top public high school in China, began their day shadowing Greenwich students, attending classes and then having a discussion of the differences of their respective cultures and lifestyles, according to Lin Young, GHS's Mandarin Chinese language teacher.

Young, who also served as an interpreter, said, "I teach my students about the issues in China and they were able to hear the people from Beijing talk about it."

Xiang ChenTong said she thought the Greenwich school was "open and friendly and I like it."

During the lunch, GHS Headmaster Chris Winters asked the Chinese students for their impressions of the Hillside Road campus. The students called out: "big," "crowded," and "friendly." Winters smiled and replied, "When I ask incoming ninth-graders what they think ... they say, 'big,' crowded,' and 'I hope friendly,' " eliciting laughter from all of the students.

Board of Education member Adrianna Ospina also greeted the group with a single word: 'Welcome' ... in Chinese. The Chinese students and teachers, as well as their Greenwich counterparts warmly returned her greeting when told her son Alberto Martinez is in Beijing where he is studying Mandarin and teaching English. "It all started here," Ospina said later, in reference to the Mandarin Chinese language courses offered at the high school.

The Chinese itinerary has been a busy one, according to Daisy Lau, whose White Plains, NY Educational Professional Exchange, organized the trip. On Feb. 4, the students visited high schools in nearby Bedford and Mamaroneck, NY.

After departing Greenwich, the group headed by bus to Yale University, before returning to White Plains. On Wednesday, "they're going to (the shopping mecca) Woodbury Common. They are helping the U.S. economy," Lau said with a laugh.

This isn't the first time Greenwich High has connected with their peers in China. About six years ago, more than 200 members of the Greenwich High School band participated in a musical tour of China, Winters said.

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