STAFF EDITORIAL: Build global perspective by talking to exchange students


Reposted with permission from SPA Facebook

Fifteen Chinese students are taking part in an exchange with SPA students.

Usually there is a separate assembly to welcome the exchange students, but this time it was, maybe fittingly, part of the MLK assembly. The first Chinese exchange in St. Paul Academy and Summit School’s history has been one of success and near success, as both high schools worked hard over a number of years to make it happen.

The fifteen students and three teachers from Changzha, China arrived and will explore the Twin Cities until Sunday; then they head to Washington D.C. before heading back home. Yet this wasn’t the first time the Chinese students tried to come here; this exchange was supposed to take place in September, but with Visa delays it wasn’t possible until now.

This roadblock may seem to be a small obstacle, but it is a recurring theme when it comes to the exchange program. Aside from the delay in the Chinese students arrival, both the French and German trips were cancelled last year due to concerns about the safety of the students. Which brings into question the sustainability of these exchanges going forward. Who knows if these exchanges will continue?

Youths have the power to turn the world around and put a stamp on history. This can only be accomplished by learning about the world, and how it sees the US. So often China is talked about from an American perspective, it might be enlightening to hear about the US from a Chinese perspective.

This means not only saying hi to the exchange students or learning with them in class, but instead trying to have a meaningful conversation with them over lunch, or during tutorial. At SPA, China is often discussed, but that is completely different than talking to the exchange students.Hearing the Chinese student’s opinions on women’s rights, their ability to protest, or how they view the US. Just five or ten minutes is enough to learn something meaningful that could change how one looks at the world.

At SPA there is a lot of talk about the “bubble” and how SPA protects its students from the outside world and its problems. But this time SPA does the exact opposite, instead allowing us to experience the world through these exchanges, so now it’s up to the students to take advantage of this opportunity and engage with the students. In a nation which seems at times to be closing itself off from the rest of the world, it’s vital that we use these opportunities to our fullest advantage.

Student exchanges are great opportunities to experience the culture and customs of other nations and parts of the world. Especially with China which doesn’t share as many customs with the U.S as other exchange countries. As students it is essential to take advantage of this great and rare opportunity to broaden horizons and learn about the world.