Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School hosts Chinese students

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A GIFT — SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts, right, presents a gift to English teacher Xiaoyan Chen, left, and physics professor Zhongwen Xu of Zhejiang Normal University Middle School in Jinhua, China, during their visit to Maine on Nov. 3 as part of both schools' Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School hosted a luncheon at the school for Xu, Chen and several Chinese students the day before they were to return to China.

PARIS — For the week of Oct. 30, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School hosted several Chinese students from its sister school in Jinhua, China, as part of its ongoing Student and Exchange Visitor program.

Ted Moccia, principal of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, said that the Student and Exchange Visitor program between the Zhejiang Normal University Middle School in Jinhua, China, and OHCHS began in 2002.

“One of our teachers, Craig Blanchard, studied Mandarin for a semester in Beijing,” Moccia said.

The two schools negotiated with one another until April 2007, Moccia said, resulting in the state’s first Chinese-Maine teacher exchange program.

The program provided for a Chinese language teacher to come to Maine for a year or two to teach Mandarin and for SAD 17 students to go to China to stay with host families from the school.

Raven Jade White-Rainey, a sophomore at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, said that she and her family were serving as a host family for two students from Jinhua: Lyu Wang Le Yan and Dang Jiawer, both freshmen.

Le Yan said that one of the biggest differences she noticed between America and China during her three days in Maine was the number of pets families had in their houses.

“We don’t have as many in China,” she said, adding that while people in China “love pets,” there is “not as much room for them.”

She added that she “appreciated how helpful” and “welcome” the teachers and students were, and how “interesting” the classes were.

Xiaoyan Chen, an English teacher with Zhejiang Normal University Middle School, and Zhongwen Xu, a physics teacher and curriculum director for the school, said that this was their first time visiting Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School since the program was established in 2002.

Xu, whose answers were translated by Chen, said that he feels the program allows American and Chinese students to “learn a lot from each other,” in terms of culture.

“I think they’ve become more tolerant, and have found common ground by eating with each other, living with each other, and learning with each other,” Xu said.

Chen said that she has found the number of students in Maine “wanting to learn Mandarin increasing year by year.”

“The students from China who visit America really appreciate how friendly people are, including the principal, the students, and the host families,” she said. “They see it as a privilege to come here.”

“I think the program will continue to grow,” Chen said, adding with a smile, “and the friendships will last forever, I think.”

mdaigle@sunmediagroup.net