HISD Hosts Chinese Exchange Students

A group of 19 Chinese high school students are in Houston to learn about American culture. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, it's the first time Houston ISD has hosted exchange students from China.

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For several years students from HISD's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts have visited a high school in China. But this is the first year the Chinese government has allowed their students to return the visit. Tian Guilian is the chairman of the Shenzen Yaohua Experimental School in Shenzen China. He says he's been struck by the difference in how American students study and learn.

Translator: "I realized one fact that HSPVA students, they combine freedom as well as the discipline, they combine it so perfect. It's amazing."

The students are spending the week taking classes at HSPVA as well as touring landmarks and points of interest around Houston. Each student lives with a host family and is matched up with a local American student. HSPVA Junior Amelia Thomas visited China last year through the school's student exchange and is hosting a student this year.

"It's given me a chance to meet with a family and from that I'm learning how people view Americans and they really actually in a sense look up to us and I really wasn't expecting that."

HSPVA's Assistant Principal Chang Yu calls the program history in the making because it's so difficult for Chinese high school students to get permission to travel to the U.S. He says it's an opportunity to promote goodwill between China and the U.S. and help the students from both countries broaden their knowledge of the world.

"This is mainly a system where we're going to cater to success and the achievement of our students so they can learn from different cultures and ideas and values. So it's really an immersion of different cultures, where two thoughts -- and maybe break some of the stereotypes that we have among one another and to learn from each other and to understand from each other."

The students have only been here a few days, but already 13-year-old Liu Congqi is calling Houston a Garden City.

"I think it's very beautiful and the buildings are short so I can see the sky. And in China it's crowded."

And when asked what the best part is so far, she says the food is really tasty.

"I did some cookies with my host family. It's my first time to cook food. So I think it's really interesting."

Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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