Eight students from the World Leading Schools Association in Shanghai, China visited the Upper School for 13 days from Jan. 29 to Feb. 10 with the goal of deepening their knowledge of American society and the English language.
During their stay, the students lived with host families.
The students shadowed their hosts in classes throughout the school day and went on sightseeing tours together after school.
Alyssa Kam ’19, who also hosted an exchange student, said she chose to do so because she wanted to support the school and show the Chinese students what it’s like to attend an American school. She said that both she and her exchange student expanded their knowledge of each other’s cultures.
“I learned a lot about Chinese food and culture, such as how kids in China learn different history than in the US, especially in topics regarding Mao [Zedong] and Chiang [Kai-Shek],” Kam said. “By teaching them about Chinese culture, students taking Chinese can learn to actually speak Chinese with Chinese people rather than just memorizing characters at school.”
In addition to visiting Harvard-Westlake, the students also toured many colleges on both the East and West coast.
“The Chinese students were not too different from us, since they go to a school where they will go to college in the U.S., and the American kids are mostly the same way,” Kam said.
Kam said she believes that this exchange is important for the Harvard-Westlake community because it reflects the inclusive values that the school prides itself with.
“I think the HW community was really able to incorporate the ‘diverse and inclusive community’ aspect of our mission statement by interacting with these exchange students,” Kam said. “This shows just how diverse our school is.”
Likewise, Reiff agrees that the exchange experience has helped Harvard-Westlake become more interconnected with students from foreign countries.
“It is important for Harvard-Westlake students to learn about Chinese culture because the world is becoming more interconnected, and a very significant portion of the world is Chinese,” Reiff said. “I believe that being able to understand and relate to them better will be a valuable skill in the future.”
Strauss Cooperstein ’18 said he appreciates this experience because of the cultural benefits that it brings both to him and his exchange student.
“I thought it was an amazing opportunity for the Chinese kids to immerse themselves in the American culture and get to know what life is like here,” he said. “I connected with a lot of them and look forward to more cultural exchanges through our school.”