P.K. Yonge host students Dannette Aguirre and Sebastian Galindo, both traveling to Nanjing over Spring Break 2014, take time to show visiting students Yuan Susu and Wu Yushan some of Gainesville’s natural sites during the NJEIS exchange visit in September. (Photo by Paula Hamsho.)
Months of planning became bustling activity when a tour bus of 15 Chinese students, two administrators, and one faculty member arrived at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School. from the Nanjing Experimental International School (NJEIS) on Sept. 24.
The five-day visit from NJEIS is the second major step in the blossoming partnership between the two school communities. The relationship, characterized by enthusiasm, warmth, and commitment to intercultural communication and global competence, only seems to grow and touch more people more deeply with each new activity in which the two schools engage.
The P.K. Yonge High School officially welcomed the Chinese delegation with speeches, student performances and words of welcome in Chinese by high school students Savannah Branch, Stephen Tucker, Robert Powell and Megan Marks. Speeches by representatives from the two schools underscored the sense of gratitude experienced by both hosts and guests for the opportunity to participate in the experience.
During their time in Gainesville, NJEIS students stayed with families of students who visited NJEIS during spring break of 2013 or with students who will be participating in an exchange visit next year. Families welcomed their NJEIS guests into their homes like they were their own children. Student Bai Xiaoyu (Tiffany), while munching on a snack prepared by her host father, said, “ He is just like my own dad!”
“We believe that participating in daily life experiences and making meaningful connections with students and families are two key ways in which people develop global competence,” said Julie Henderson, P.K. Yonge’s Coordinator of International Relations. “Opportunities like those provided to both P.K. Yonge and NJEIS students don’t just promote awareness of another culture, but provide an inside experience and understanding that would not be possible on a tourist visit.”
Visiting administrators and faculty were able to observe classes and participate in official observation activities on the PKY campus. Plans are being developed for the P.K. Yonge faculty delegate, Amanda Adimoolah, to teach classes in the NJEIS elementary school during her time in Nanjing.
Besides their in-home experiences, Chinese students accompanied their American partners to academic classes, took classes taught by P.K. Yonge faculty, visited the UF campus and the Florida Museum of Natural History, and took a day trip to the historic sites and beaches in St. Augustine. The school week ended with a traditional tailgate barbecue before the Blue Wave’s Friday night home football game. The team was welcomed onto the field by the P.K. Yonge cheerleaders and their new Chinese friends.
After the visit, the P.K. Yonge group of students traveling to China in 2014 expanded from 11 to 19. Interest in the partnership has grown campuswide; with many students expressing interest in future years exchange activities. The P.K. Yonge Elementary school has now begun weekly Chinese classes for second through fifth grade and a middle-high school Chinese language club will begin to support the student delegation traveling to China in the spring.
Response to the visit on both sides of the world has been similar. Yang Xiaolin, assistant principal at NJEIS perhaps described the sentiment best: “Our students entered the U.S. students’ families and felt like family members of their U.S. partners–living together, learning and really feeling American sincerity and enthusiasm. They felt the warmth of this connection extend to their families at home.”
Planning and fundraising activities are underway for the P.K. Yonge spring break visit to NJEIS. To learn more, donate or keep up with P.K. Yonge’s global activities, visit http://pkyglobal.pkyonge.ufl.edu.