Friendships Forged and Memories Made During Chinese Students' 12-Day Visit to Wauwatosa
October 4, 2019
Kelly Goldman and her husband Dan enjoy learning about new cultures and it’s a quality they want to teach their three young children, including Jonah, a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School and Henry, a senior kindergarten student.
That’s why they volunteered to open their home for a weekend to Bobby Wang and Xavier Zhou, both 11, from Nanjing, China, as part of a student exchange program the Wauwatosa School District is exploring with Chinese international schools organization, Wisconsin Schools Alliance.
“They melded into our family quite easily. It was fun watching them experience our community.”
(Pictured: The Goldman family with their host students from China, Bobby Wang and Xavier Zhou.)
The students participated in the Goldmans’ normal rhythms of soccer games, church, and family dinners, as well as an evening of group bowling and an Oktoberfest celebration at the Kneeland Walker House.
“It was fun to learn about their culture. What is similar, and what is different from our culture. We enjoyed seeing photos and videos of their homes, their city, and their families,” said Kelly.
(Pictured: Bobby Wang and Xavier Zhou with Jonah and Henry Goldman enjoying a meal at the Goldman's home.)
As part of the program, 60 fifth-grade and middle school-aged Chinese students from Shanghai and Nanjing, China traveled to Wauwatosa September 23-October 4, attending classes at Lincoln Elementary, and Longfellow and Whitman Middle Schools.
One of the main goals of the Chinese students’ visit was to work on their English skills and observe what American school classes are like. In the evenings, they participated in athletic events, class lessons from back home, and journaled about their day. Hosting their Chinese peers also provided a learning opportunity for Wauwatosa students.
“I know our students appreciated learning about Chinese culture and I think it was a really unique experience for our kids to interact with students from another country, who are the same age, in an authentic way,” said Whitman Principal Clint Grochowski. “ I give the Chinese students a lot of credit - it takes a lot of courage for a 13-year-old to leave their family for two weeks and travel to a foreign land to learn from strangers. I'm proud of how our students accommodated our visitors.”
Outside of school, the students toured the Milwaukee Public Museum, Discovery World, and other local treasures. But, the weekend homestays were a key part of the visit for the Chinese families who wanted their children to experience day-to-day life for an American family, knowing each family is unique and different.
Meg Malloy’s family was happy to provide the opportunity, serving up a classic fall weekend of apple picking, baking their selections into a savory pie and piecing together a puzzle.
“It was a great opportunity to meet and learn about someone who lives a world away.”
(Pictured: Frankie Malloy of Whitman Middle School and her host student, Cherry.)
Their kindness made an impression. In her update to family back home in Shanghai, their host-student Cherry wrote about making pies with the family and eating American meals.
“I was extremely happy when I was with the family. I enjoyed the meal very much. I love this family!”
Dozens of other Chinese students shared similar stories, writing to their families about their excursions to Lake Michigan, museums, and sporting events, and many describing their host families as kind, warm-hearted, and that they loved their time together.
A sentiment the Goldmans shared, too.
“We learned how much we have in common with people all the way across the world. Kids are kids no matter where they are from,” said Kelly Goldman. “ We also learned a lot about the city our students came from (Nanjing). It is HUGE and beautiful with tall modern buildings, historic architecture and sculptures, lush gardens, and lots of people!”