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Taiwanese exchange students are ‘on board’ at Pascack Hills

Amber Leung

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Last Sunday, fourteen Taiwanese students from Yangming High School in Taipei landed in New Jersey in order to act as exchange students through the “Homestay” program at Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills High School. Through this program, the exchange students are each paired up with a student who is currently taking Chinese classes at either Valley or Hills. They will be staying for a total of 10 days and everyday, follow their assigned Pascack student to experience what it’s like to be an American teenager.

However, this exchange wasn’t sudden – Hills Chinese teacher, Yi Ping Yao, made contact with Yangming a few years ago. Last year, the first big step was taken: nine Pascack students were brought to Taiwan for 10 days. These students were immersed with Taiwanese culture on the trip and even visited the high school, interacting with many of their students.

​We want them to gain an awareness of other cultures and to gain confidence in navigating other cultures,” stated another Chinese teacher at Hills, Liam O’Neill. “We hope they are inspired to continue Chinese studies beyond high school.”

Being that they are partnered with a Pascack student, these exchange students are in and out of classes all day. Even though they may or may not understand the material that is being discussed, they use this opportunity to practice their English in completely brand-new environment.

Taiwanese student, Ieya Liu, said, “It can be a bit nerveracking to speak to everyone because to understand, I need everyone to talk slower and louder, but everyone’s so fast and quiet.”

Furthermore, perhaps one of the most distinct features of the day-to-day routine, is the fact that the Taiwanese students are given the chance to see how American classrooms are run. Rather than their typical “sit-and-listen” learning experience, they are able to be involved in creative classroom activities.

“One of the most interesting parts of this culture exchange is that the school system is so different. My students are able to experience another way to learn in the classroom, and one of the most contrasting ways is the use of ‘discussions.’ I believe they can truly compare the two cultures through this trip,” stated Hui-Chen Lu, a teacher from Yangming High School.

Not only do the exchange students get to live as an American student, they sightsee and have special discussion circles with students as well. Their schedule includes visiting New York City, the Hillsdale police, and the Palisade Center for ice skating and rope climbing. In addition, the students are given topics of discussion, containing energy use, climate change, and environmental actions. They then sit down with specific classes to examine the matter of the day; for example, during Pascack Period this week, they joined a science class to talk about energy.

One of the most significant, if not treasured, part of this experience, is the bond created between the Taiwanese students in their Pascack counterpart. Living together, eating together, and spending the whole day together, day after day, the pair become profoundly close.

When talking about her Taiwanese exchange student, junior Lauren Losak commented, “I have loved every second of this experience! Honestly, she is becoming my new best friend and she’s so cute – she took a picture of my graphing calculator the other day because she has never seen one before.”

“One of my favorite parts about these students is that they’ve never seen snow and are so excited to see it,” stated another Hills student, Jade Greenberg. “Since it snowed on Tuesday, my family and I took two students sledding 30 minutes before school started. It has been such an interesting experience!”

Although the Taiwanese students are leaving next Tuesday, this program is determined to remain in our school system. It is suggested that since the Homestay program was so successful, in the future, the plan is every other year, Pasack students will visit Taiwan and Taiwanese students will visit New Jersey in between.

“I loved living an ‘American’ life,” said Liu. “I will miss all the friends and teachers I’ve met during this time, and if given another chance, I will definitely come back!”

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