When Woodmore High School secretary Angie Balduf heard that she would have the opportunity to host a Chinese student for three weeks, she jumped at the chance.
“My whole family just thought it would be an awesome opportunity,” said Balduf. “We didn’t have to devote so much time in comparison with a yearlong exchange program.”
Balduf was matched up with Jess, a middle school student from Lanzhou, China. Balduf’s daughter said that she really enjoyed having Jess around and the time they spent together.
“She got along very well with the whole family,” noted Balduf.
Jess said the decision to travel to America was an easy one. Like every other student, Jess wanted to study and play while experiencing the unique culture.
“Chicago was my favorite,” she said. “My flight landed there, and I loved being in the city.”
After Jess made the long trip from Chicago to Elmore, she was finally ready to attend an American school. Jess had been studying English independently for six years before her trip to America, so she wasn’t too nervous.
“The school system is about the same,” she said. “Woodmore is just a little smaller than the average school that I’ve seen,” she said.
Education, although important to her, did not consume Jess’ schedule. She had many exciting experiences during her stay, including both field trips sponsored by the exchange program and activities planned by the Balduf family. Balduf said that since Jess really enjoyed the outdoors, they tried to structure their trips around that.
The Balduf family ended up taking Jess to Maumee Bay State Park for an overnight stay, horseback riding and sledding. Jess also had the opportunity to attend one of the most exciting events Woodmore has to offer, a varsity basketball game. Balduf also took Jess to a Chinese restaurant to show her how the Chinese culture is portrayed in America.
Jess returned to China in February. Balduf was concerned that this wasn’t enough time to make lasting connections.
“Unfortunately, I just don’t think three weeks is enough time for them to become comfortable,” said Balduf. “Thankfully, we can keep in touch through email.”
Overall, Balduf thought the exchange was very positive and was grateful for the rare opportunity.
10 Chinese welcomed
A total of ten middle school students from China came to visit Woodmore and live with area host families to experience the American lifestyle.
From Jan. 13 to Feb 2, ten students, who all had been learning English since their elementary years, were paired up with a mentor and attended all of his or her classes.
Woodmore became a part of the Chinese Youth Ambassador Program when the director of American Cultural Exchange Service contacted the superintendent. Then, Middle School Principal Kevin Ball became involved and shortly afterwards the search for willing families to host a student began.
Those families didn’t necessarily need to have a child the same age, in that case the student simply would be assigned an extra mentor, but they had to be willing to “share their home and their hearts,” as it said on the ACES information sheet, and families went through a rigorous application process that included a criminal background check and in-home interview.
Once that was done, families were able to pick a student that they felt would fit their household best. Baldolf picked her exchange daughter because many of her interests seemed to be the same. Soon, her family and the Chinese student, Jesss, started writing emails back and forth and both sides couldn’t wait to meet in January.
Baldolf had been thinking about hosting a student for a while because her daughter is an only child and the whole family has always had great interest in China.
“Maybe she can teach us more about her culture and her life,” Baldolf said before the Chinese student arrived. “She said she wants to try horseback riding, so we will do that and maybe go to an indoor water park.”
Ball, who was part of a similar program when he was in school, was excited about all the opportunities this exchange had for Woodmore.
“The kids can learn about another, completely different culture. They also learn how to become leaders, and I’m sure it (was) a lot of fun,” Ball said.
Seven students shadowed a Woodmore middle schooler from Jan. 13- Feb. 2. They were sponsored by the Chinese Youth Ambassador Program. (Window To Woodmore photo by Molly Post)