Foshan Exchange Students Experience Life at GR

Alice visits an art museum with her host family. Photo by: Willow McGuane

Alice visits an art museum with her host family. Photo by: Willow McGuane

On Thursday, Jan. 16, George Ranch opened its arms to greet 13 exchange students and two administrators from Foshan, China who would be staying for ten days. In honor of their visit, a dinner was held on Monday, Jan. 20 at Safari Texas that included LCISD personnel, George Ranch department chairs, the Asian Culture Club, and host families to welcome the students. Tuesday, Jan. 21, the Chinese exchange students adopted an American name, social media accounts, and a class schedule to start their first official day at George Ranch.

The Chinese students stayed with volunteer host families of students from different extracurriculars. For ten days, the Foshan students were immersed into GR life; they attended many AP classes, our annual “Dancing with the Staff” production, and basketball games. On weekends, the students were able to experience the life of the average “American teenager”: going shopping and hanging out with their new friends. They were also able to visit Dallas and Houston tourist spots like the Galleria.

Many initially feared this abrupt transition into American life would be too overwhelming for the Foshan students, however the exchange students handled the change well.

Danielle Nguyen, a sophomore who was able to closely interact with the students after being introduced to them through Asian Culture Club, admired their adaptability. “Well, on their first day attending school, they looked a bit scared during passing periods and finding their classes, but throughout the week, they improved greatly. It was really impressed me how they adapted at a fast pace.”

The Chinese students not only adapted quickly but also made friends quickly. Nguyen was able to connect with all the students, especially Jessie* and Ian*.

“Me and Jessie seemed to click when we met at the Safari Texas dinner,” Nguyen said. “She was asking if anyone could speak Korean because Korean study was one of her hobbies. Upon hearing this, I told her I was interested in Korean Pop and we ended up sharing the same interests in music. Ian, on the other hand, was originally quiet. I had also met him at the dinner; we shared one class together and I found out that he was quite an interesting guy.”

Senior Willow McGuane participated as a host student, offering her home and family for her student, Alice*.

Willow McGuane and her exchange student, Alice. Photo by: Willow McGuane
Willow McGuane and her exchange student, Alice. Photo by: Willow McGuane

“Alice was very into shopping, sports, and schooling. We went to the First Colony Mall, the Galleria, and the Katy Mills Mall. She wanted all the name brands she could get her hands on; she bought Coach, Calvin Klein, Uggs, James Avery, Apple, and North Face. She was also very interested in sports. In her school, how involved you were in sports defined your popularity, because you have to excel in sports to get on the team. We went to see the George Ranch basketball game, saw the girls varsity soccer game, and swam with the swim team,” McGuane said.

With all the American activities planned for the students, many culture barriers surfaced. The Chinese have a different viewpoint on many American habits, and because the Foshan students grew up in a different society with different values, American culture baffled them.

“Alice did not understand high school relationships; she found it very silly and unnecessary. She believed that love and relationships were meant for after schooling and work. She also did not understand that I did not have a curfew. We were out one night in Town Center and it was 10 o’clock and she was very worried we were going to get in trouble. She did not understand why Americans — knowing how much fat or calories are in their food — still eat it. I learned that [the Chinese] lead much more healthy lifestyles. They like to exercise and watch their calorie intake. Consequently, they do not like fast-food or greasiness. I also learned they focus on academics more, by having longer hours, more days, and more rigorous [schoolwork]. Alice also told me that they got to choose groups that they wanted to study in. She chose the art. This means that she takes classes like art, theatre, and dance. Because she was in the dance group, she also got to leave her hair long, unlike the rest of her fellow students,” McGuane said.

Although many differences with Chinese and American culture were noted, Nguyen sees their visit as a beneficial learning experience for the students.

“I think they thought our education was not as strict as theirs, but also free and full of fun activities that they don’t have at their schools,” Nguyen said.

The ten day visit was an eye-opening experience to all whom were involved.

“The experience was great,” McGuane said. “I am not used to having younger siblings or someone that I am responsible for. It took a little time to get used to, however in the end we were best friends. She was very much like me, and it was nice to always have someone to do fun things with and to stay up late watching movies and gossiping. While she was here I got to show off the great things not only this nation has, but what specifically Texas has.”


*Adopted Americanized names were used.