Making friends despite language barrier
Beijing #4 High School students will experience American culture to its fullest this week as they visit their Park City High School counterparts. Students from PCHS spent 16 days in China in October as a part of the U.S. China People Friendship Association exchange program. According to Shirley Smith, co-founder of the Utah Chapter, the program started in 1992 when Smith and co-founder Val Chin saw a need for students to increase their knowledge of other countries firsthand. Smith said the exchange broadens the students’ outlook on the world.
"They gain an awareness of our culture and how our education works, which is different from their own," she said. "And then to see how we live in our country in our homes. They give us so much when we’re over there, we’re trying to give them that much when they come here."
Park City High School Senior Sara McNaughtan went on the trip to Beijing in Oct., with 9 of her peers. She said the only time the Beijing students could visit the U.S was during their winter break.
"Since the schools in China are so strict, it makes sense for them to come during their break," she said. "The program has been great. It shows that two cultures can come together and that you can make friends even with a language barrier."
This week, Beijing students will ski at Deer Valley and Canyons Resort, ice skate, bowl and go on an outdoor retreat to see the 52-foot-tall Delicate Arch in Moab. They will also visit Westminster College to meet Chinese students currently enrolled in the college’s exchange program.
May Xia is a sophomore and the youngest of the Chinese students on the trip. Xia is enjoying her experience in Park City, according to McNaughtan, who said its been fun watching Xia interact with her siblings because most of the families in Beijing only have one child. McNaughtan said things like painting fingernails and the concept of mailboxes are new experiences for Xia.
Park City High School student Nikki Falten said its interesting having the students visit, because the cultures are different. When Falten stayed at her counterpart’s home in Beijing, they go to take the subway and buses around the city, she said, adding that so far, she’s taken Susan Zhang ice skating for the first time, to Davanza’s and to Main Street.
"It’s just like having another sister, but she is still trying to learn the language and I’m trying to explain a lot of things to her," Falten said. It’s different for both of us, but I’m just trying to understand her culture and compare it to ours."
Zhang also came to school and attended chemistry class with Falten, who said that having Susan in class shows how advanced they are in math in China.
"She is taking chemistry, biology, and physics all in the same year," Falten said. "I found myself trying to race her to complete the questions while she’s doing all the problems faster than me and getting them all correct. And this is all in a different language too."
Anita Lewis, Brent Ovard and Travis English were influential in shaping how residents interact with the county.