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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Exchange students from China visit school for the first time since pandemic

Connor Tang
Lisa Suen, a foreign exchange student from the World Leading Schools Association in Shanghai (WLSA), paints on a collaborative canvas installed in Feldman-Horn Gallery. Suen, a junior, is one of the six students the school hosted from Jan. 22 to Feb. 22.

Six high school students from China visited the school as a part of an exchange student program from Jan. 22 to Feb. 2. The students came from the World Leading Schools Association (WLSA), an international school in Shanghai that aims to connect with schools globally through education. Consequently, they organize annual exchange student programs to other countries’ schools. In 2020, the school, in partnership with this global program, agreed to host WLSA students.

Director of Kutler Center Jim Patterson has run the exchange program for over 10 years, since the school first joined the global program with WLSA. Before the COVID outbreak, the school did not only accept students from Shanghai, but would send their own to China, for an assortment of internships and programs.

The importance of the interactions between school and exchange students, Patterson said, were one of the main reasons he wanted to restart the program.

“It’s great to have these kids who come from a place that in many ways is completely different than living in LA,” Patterson said. “In many ways, they are living the same lives our students are, in terms of the their goals for college, university and their lives. It’s really an amazing opportunity to meet and really develop friendships with kids in other parts of the world.”

During their visit, the exchange students attended classes and experienced life on campus. They were encouraged to observe life at a foreign school and absorb new learning methods. Outside of school, the students also attended school sports games, visited landmarks across the Los Angeles (LA) area and toured local universities.

The trip was organized by Patterson in accordance with Jessie Xie, the director of the exchange program. Xie is also from Shanghai and serves as a college counselor for students at WLSA. Part of her job working at an international school involves helping students apply to colleges in the U.S.

Xie said the most exciting part of the exchange is seeing the students learn about new cultures in a foreign environment.

“They’re young and energetic,” Xie said. “It makes you happy that they love to learn. You’ll see that they’re curious about exploring a different environment and a different home.”

Lisa Suen, an exchange student, is currently a junior at WLSA. Suen said her experiences at the school made her feel that she was better suited for school in the U.S.

“American schools suit me more,” Suen said. “Both the teachers and the people here are just different from Chinese tradition.”

Suen said though she applied to the exchange program on a whim, she appreciated the time she spent on campus.

“I just kind of came here,” Suen said. “I had a strange feeling that told me to apply for this exchange program. I didn’t expect that I [would] meet so many people. The people are polite and friendly. Everyone is outgoing and different.”

Julien Liu ’25, who is American-Taiwanese and speaks fluent Chinese, volunteered to have Suen shadow him. He ensured Suen knew how to get around campus as she attended all his classes.

Liu said taking Suen around campus allowed him to learn about high school education in China.

“Their schools are very academic,” he said. “Harvard-Westlake is academic, but we’re balanced in our extracurriculars. Almost all of the students there study. They work hard, [and that] is normalized in China. Applying to college is usually harder for a Chinese international student, so they have to work two to three times as much to be recognized.”

“The exchange shows the differences between schools, and who has access to elite universities in our country,” Patterson said. “Harvard-Westlake is well known, but not every school in the country is well known to all colleges either. What the WLSA students experience is that there are a lot of smart kids who don’t go to schools like this, who do the same things but more. Hopefully it gives you an appreciation that there are lots of kids in the world that are having the same ambitions and goals as you.”

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Connor Tang, Editor-in-Chief

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