A group of Mount Airy High School students recently made an early morning of it — being at their school ready go to by 6:45 a.m.
The reason for their early rise that morning? A chance for some real-time, live conversation with new friends in Beijing, China.
Utilizing a software program called Skype — which allows people to talk to one another like a phone call but also see one another via computer monitor — the students were able talk to and see their friends via computer, for the second time over the past five weeks.
“The newly developed partnership between Mount Airy High School and Beijing Royal School has caused students in Mount Airy to realize they aren’t that different from students across the world,” the city school system said in commenting on the program. “Over the course of the two group chats, students have discovered how their countries, teenage routines, class schedules, food choices, and schools are alike and different. In between these early morning talks, students have created introduction videos and shared them internationally to get to know each other. Students have also connected via WeChat and other available social media outlets.”
“I think it is an awesome program that allows us, as students, to see how students in other parts of the world live their lives and gain an education,” said Mount Airy sophomore Drew Tilley.
“I am so grateful to be a part of this program as I have already started forming international relationships with students in Beijing,” said senior Elizabeth Marion. “It is amazing to me how even though we are on two different continents, we are so similar in many ways.”
The vision behind this partnership is that the program provides opportunities for students to grow in their cultural awareness and sensitivity as well as their appreciation for other cultures. These series of real life experience allows students to build lifelong friendships and connections that will impact the various paths in their futures.
“Connecting with students half-way around the world is amazing for our students,” said city schools Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison. “To have teenagers up and ready to interact at 6:45 a.m. is a miracle. I know we are doing something right when our students say this is the highlight of their week. Learning from other teenagers in a completely different culture allows us to understand and appreciate students that are different than us and see that in many ways, we are the same.”
This partnership stemmed from years of offering Mandarin Chinese at Mount Airy High School that included several trips to and from China for students and educators of both countries.
In the fall of 2014, Mount Airy City Schools began offering Mandarin Chinese at Mount Airy High School.
“The vision for providing access to this language included equipping students with tools necessary to choose their future and experience success. Through traveling, connecting with students in China, and being taught by a Chinese instructor employed by the district, students are being provided skills and growing their potential to become global leaders,” the city school system said.
The 2017-2018 school year will bring about another opportunity for Mount Airy High School students to experience China and welcome another group of Chinese students to Mount Airy. They will live with Mount Airy students for the week and have the opportunity to learn more about education in America, teenage routines, and Mount Airy. The Mandarin Chinese program also grew this school year to include Mount Airy Middle School. Two Chinese teachers are employed to serve and educate students in grades 6-12.
Students and teachers at Mount Airy High School are eager to see where this international connection will take them. For now, students are enjoying getting to know more about their new friends and are looking forward to meeting them in person.
Students from Beijing Royal School will travel to Mount Airy in late January when they will live with their American host family, which includes a Mount Airy High School student. In the spring, Mount Airy students will visit Beijing Royal School, stay in student housing, attend classes, and work on a service project.