GLASGOW — On Tuesday, 20 Chinese international students and their teacher will leave Glasgow and begin their journey back home.
The students have been in Glasgow for about four weeks. Six of them have been attending Glasgow High School and 14 have been taking classes at Glasgow Christian Academy.
“This is our fourth year with the exchange students. Glasgow and Barren County just haven’t had many exchange students in years past. The program seemed to have died out a little bit,” said Beth Sowers, one of the host parents for the students.
About four years ago, Suzanne Ireland of Glasgow brought the first group of Chinese international students back again to this area. Traci Boggs took the program over in 2019 and made arrangements for another group of students to visit Glasgow this year.
“Most of the ones who come here have never heard of Jesus,” Boggs said. “That’s the main reason why I do it. In China, Christianity is persecuted. We don’t force it on any of them. We let them experience it and (tell them) it’s your own choice what you choose.”
All of the students attend the same school in Xi’an, which is the north central portion of the country.
The students had a choice of going to Canada, Florida, the United Kingdom or coming to Glasgow.
Boggs got in contact with the director of the students’ school in Xi’an and made arrangements for their visit to Glasgow.
“The main reason they want them to come here is to experience the culture,” she said. “It also helps them to learn English.”
Lori Siebold, a guidance counselor at GHS, attending the school is “a phenomenal opportunity for Chinese students to experience American culture first-hand and an opportunity for our students to get a glimpse into Chinese education.”
“The main goal while visiting students are here isn’t academic. It is to develop a better command of the English language. Our students have been surprised to learn after spending 7 hours a day at GHS, their Chinese classmates still have Chinese homework to complete at the end of the day,” Siebold said.
All of the students have adopted English first names to use while staying in the United States. Many of the students have expressed an interest in attending an American college. Samuel, who attends GHS and is a freshman, is one of them.
“One day I will come here to go to college. I come here to become familiar with the education here, so in order to help me get into college,” he said.
He hopes to study economics and business at a college in Pennsylvania.
There is a difference between his school in Xi’an and GHS.
“Chinese school is more stressful because there is a longer school day. It’s 12 hours and here it’s only seven hours, and we have more subjects and more homework. Here it’s more relaxed and more colorful,” he said.
He and his classmates are required to keep up with their homework assignments from their school in Xi’an, as well as do the homework assigned to them at GHS and GCA, which he said can be kind of a difficult thing to do. He explained that he works on his homework from his school in Xi’an while in classes at GHS that he doesn’t understand very much, such as language.
“I don’t need to do learn that at this time so I will do my homework in class,” he said. “In like Chemistry and a P.E. class I will be more of a participant in class.”
Tim, a sophomore at GHS, took part in the program because he said he wants to improve his English and because it gave him an opportunity see another part of the world. He, too, is hoping to attend college in America, even though he hasn’t chosen what school he would like to attend. He has, however, narrowed down the cities in which he would like to live while attending college. Those cities are either Boston or New York City.
He also said his school in Xi’an is different from GHS.
“Less homework,” he said.
Having less homework allows him to have more spare time, which he said he spends by playing games, chatting with family members and playing basketball.
Sowers explained the students are required to know how to speak English rather well before they can come to America to attend college.
“Their teachers at their school will not give them referrals to come to America for college unless they pass a very important English test once they get back from being in the states,” she said.
This is the first year for GCA to have any of the students.
“With the teacher being here it’s been really good,” said Tracy Shaw, principal at GCA, adding that an invitation has been extended to the students if they wish to learn about Christianity. “We for sure haven’t shied away from sharing Jesus with them.”
She added that having the students at GCA has been “a great addition.”
While the students have been at GCA, they have taken two field trips. Earlier in their stay in Glasgow they visited Mammoth Cave National Park and on Friday they went to Ralphie’s Fun Center along Happy Valley Road.
Also on Friday, which was their last day in school while in Glasgow due to Monday being President’s Day, the students attending GCA gave presentations, one of which included a game of musical chairs.
The Coronavirus has been a concern for their students and their teacher while in Glasgow.
“Their province, Xi’an, is several hundred miles away from Wuhan, where the virus supposedly originated,” Sowers said. “They call home every day. They Facetime and they talk to their families. So far none of their families have contracted the virus and none of their classmates back at their school have contracted it either.”
Because of the Coronavirus, the students have expressed an interest in purchasing masks to take home with them, because there is shortage of them, Boggs said.
About 10 families stepped up to house the students while they are in Glasgow.
“Everybody in Glasgow has treated them so awesome,” Boggs said, adding that some of the students in other cities have not been treated very well because of the virus.
The students are expected to be in quarantine for about 14 days after they arrive back in Xi’an due to the virus, Boggs said.