n Monday, February 1st, three of this year’s five groups of Ameson’s Sino-American Youth Ambassadors (SAYA) visited the Foundation’s head office in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Building located in Washington, D.C. Although the group was still suffering from jetlag, their excitement and enthusiasm was clear as they arrived and participated in the events planned for them. O
Upon arriving, Ameson’s Executive Director, Mr. Stephen Smith, and Deputy Director, Mr. Zhu Xiao Di, introduced the history of the Foundation and general information about the Reagan Building and surrounding area. After this introduction, the SAYA students had a chance to chat with the directors about their experiences living with local families and attending high school together with American students. The SAYA ambassadors then gave back to the local community by performing a series of Chinese songs and dances for a group of young children from a local kindergarten who had been invited to attend the event. The children enjoyed the performances and even learned a bit about China in the process. This was followed by a forum where American college students and graduates shared their experiences about their life in college. Since many of the students in this year’s program plan on pursuing an undergraduate degree in the United States after their completion of high school in China, they found this session to be incredibly informative and valuable. This last event was followed up with a tour of the office and lunch provided by Ameson.
Since SAYA’s inception over seven years ago, the program has sought to bring greater international awareness and cultural diversity to high school campuses in both the U.S. and China. Students serve as Cultural Ambassadors to foster understanding between both countries and to have the chance to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of both the Chinese and American educational style systems, as well as learn more about the life of their peers in other countries.
SAYA is an annual event that typically takes place during the Chinese New Year, which this year falls at the crossroads of January and February. This year’s participants had the chance to attend school in places around the United States such as Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana; Mount Airy High School in Mt. Airy, North Carolina; and Madeira High School in Madeira, Ohio. In addition to time in the classroom, students joined their American peers in eating hamburgers, steaks, American fast food, and ice cream. In the classroom the students noticed the difference in teaching styles in America where small group discussions, class presentations, hands-on experiments in science and technology classes, and field trips. In spite of the record-breaking snowfall in many parts of the U.S., host families braved the weather to take their Chinese “son” or “daughter” to participate in popular activities such as bowling, sports events, and, of course, sledding. The SAYA students had a blast.
SAYA students gave back to their host communities by sharing their cultural values and traditions with American students, teachers, and host families. During their time spent at their host schools, they gave presentations on Chinese folks arts, calligraphy, making dumplings, and more. The faculty and students were delighted at the chance to engage with another culture and customs they may not typically come into contact with. Some of the faculty members and students were able to experienced Chinese folk arts and calligraphy for the first time. The schools, students and their host family were very pleased to have Ameson’s SAYA students visited and stayed in this short period.
As SAYA students complete the final week of their exchange program in the U.S., we are confident that this year’s program was successful in its mission of forming positive ties between peoples and cultures around the world.