Chinese Exchange Establishes Friendships, Connections

Emily Kloostra, Staff Writer

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Coming from the “Chicago of China” to southern Illinois, 12 Chinese exchange students arrived on Jan. 6 to learn and build relationships.

As the first part of the Chinese exchange program organized by social sciences teacher Kevin Paur, the students will spend approximately two weeks with host families in Edwardsville.

EHS students will then travel to Wuhan, China with a stop in Beijing over spring break as the second part of the exchange.

After seeing her brother grow through the experience, senior Olivia Fensterman decided to participate in the exchange her junior year. While she is only hosting this year, Fensterman said the program still has benefits.

“It is a big time commitment,” she said, “but it’s completely worth it. You’ll learn a lot and enjoy it so much.”

Hosting also brings a new perspective to Edwardsville, according to Fensterman.

“You get to show someone around your town,” Fensterman said, “which is fun because it’s also a reason to do things you don’t always do.”

The exchange fosters friendships, Mr. Paur said.

“I like to see the friendships the students make, you know these international friendships,” he said. “Just seeing kids hanging out with each other and so forth, who might have otherwise never had a chance to meet each other.”

Junior Nick DeMare said that getting to know his exchange student has been the most fun part.

“Apparently he really likes longboarding, so that’s been fun,” DeMare said.

The exchange doesn’t only introduce students to each other, according to Mr. Paur.

“I think it introduces students to the fact that there’s a bigger world out there and that people who live in other places are also great, nice people,” he said.

The international travel aspect broadens students’ knowledge, Mr. Paur said. It also entices students to the program, such as DeMare.

“[China] just seems like a cool place to visit,” DeMare said, “and I’ve always wanted to travel abroad.”

Mr. Paur said the exchange provides that opportunity to students, and starts a lifelong philosophy.

“I think you can ask anyone who’s traveled internationally before,” Mr. Paur said. “Once you start you get a bug and it opens up a whole new part of your life.”