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East Meets West in Cultural Exchange at SMS

posted Jan 27, 2017, 12:31 PM by Lee Stephens   [ updated Jan 27, 2017, 12:31 PM ]
In the tumultuous and sometimes trying realm of international relations we often hear of a clash of cultures. However, Seneca Middle School recently hosted a special group of Chinese exchange students and their teacher which demonstrated that interaction between different peoples can be quite positive and with numerous benefits. From practicing a second language, talking with peers from another country and even trying new foods, these new experiences can forge connections and build bridges between disparate cultures – even here in small-town Seneca.

This cultural exchange came about due to a confluence of good fortune and hard work. For the second year running, Seneca Middle School is fortunate, through a grant opportunity, to offer Chinese I to select eighth grade students. The school is also fortunate to have Clemson University and its international connections as a close neighbor. Clemson’s Global Connections Youth Learning Institute has worked hard to develop and maintain a cultural exchange program with schools across the globe. This year, a group of eleven students and their teacher, Liu Jing, from Xinjin High School in the Sichuan province of southwest China are spending four weeks living and learning among local Upstate school partners. Due to the Chinese I program at Seneca Middle School, the school was included as a stop on their cultural tour of the region.

Dr. Jim Bennett, Director of International Programs at the Youth Learning Institute coordinated the visit between the Chinese contingent and a small group of Seneca Middle School students including those in the Chinese I course. He began the encounter with a fun quiz about the two countries as an ice-breaker and discussion starter for the participants. After a tour of the school and a comparison of their school facilities, curriculum and schedules, the visiting students ate a typical school lunch with some eating foods, such as onion rings, they had never tried before. All along the way both sets of students practiced their language skills with each other and had a great time making new friends and learning both the differences and commonalities of teens in two very different cultures.