Largest SAYA exchange to date concludes successfully

studentsSAYA students and their American peers pose in front of the Providence Day School library.


AYA’s New Year's resolution for 2013: breaking down educational barriers! Sino-American Youth Ambassadors (we stick with SAYA for short) got an early start on that goal this February, by bringing a group of nearly 100 Chinese students - the largest group yet - to the United States. SAYA’s last exchange in February 2012 saw SAYA ambassadors meet Vice-Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping during their visit to Los Angeles. Biden and Xi couldn’t make it this time, but February's SAYA exchange still proved a rousing success.

2013 kicked off in February with nearly 100 Chinese students destined for schools such as Belmont HS, Thomas Jefferson HS and more. But before students punched their tickets, they underwent Ameson’s pre-departure training. Led by a team of experienced Ameson administrators, students were educated about the customs, host families, educators and sightseeing opportunities awaiting them across the Pacific. 

The highlight of the program for us was getting to know such a wonderful child. Zhu Wangzi blended seamlessly into our family...We have emailed and/or videochatted with Zhu Wangzi everyday since he returned to China. We hope to visit his family in the next few years.
          —the Ahern Family, Norwood School

Participants also received a broad overview of America's cultural history from certified AP teachers of U.S. government and law. Before the day was over, students even found time to run through the traditional Chinese cultural activities they would share with their peers in the United States.

Once our SAYA ambassadors arrived stateside, they were excited to finally get answers to all their questions about American schools: Can students really sit wherever they want? Was class as fun it looked in the movies?

music-performanceBefore leaving China, SAYA students prepare activities or performances to introduce Chinese culture to American students.
No film crews were present, but Chinese students were gratified to discover that, yes, the American classroom is a lively place, especially during Chinese New Year. The New Year festival, typically falling in late January or early February, is the most important event in the Chinese lunar calendar. SAYA ambassadors brought this festive atmosphere to American classrooms by taking the opportunity to introduce American classmates and host families to festival traditions like rolling dumplings and creating decorations.

The highlight for me was when the exchange students performed their talents during the Lunar New Year celebration.  It was really cool to see how good Shi Yue was at art and also to see the other student's talents too. 
          Luke Kuprenas, Thomas Jefferson H.S.

Besides their week in the classroom, some of our students also squeezed in a trip to Washington, D.C., including a visit to Ameson headquarters. Greeted by Director Stephen Smith, the young ambassadors took a tour of the Ronald Reagan Building, second in size only to the Pentagon among DC architecture.

And just like that, a whirlwind week in the United States was over. When Ameson interviewed SAYA students on their return flight to China, there was talk of friendships made, hard-earned experience won and new viewpoints on both America and China. As the Pacific added miles between the students and the United States, the relationships they formed during their brief trip remained close. “The first thing I did when I got home,” said one student “even before I called my friends, was email my host family.”

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