District explores connections with CF’s Chinese sister city

The school board discussed Superintendent Mike Wells’ plan to create a sister city exchange program at Cedar Falls High School last night. In 2013, students from Laibin, China, will come here for two weeks. A group of 13 to 17 year olds from the Cedar Falls school district would travel to Laibin, China, for two weeks in July 2014.

“First the city signed a sister city agreement. The first element of the sister city is a student exchange program. The Chinese would like to have a full year exchange, but I didn’t think that Cedar Fall students would want to give up a full year,” Wells said. Wells and Principal Dr. Rich Powers may travel to the city to assess the safeness of the environment. “Once the program is organized it becomes a community organization, but we will help get each trip organized, and we may go on the first trip to make sure things go well,” Wells said.

All eligible students will receive a flyer about the program. Those interested and their parents will attend a meeting discussing the requirements. These include each family hosting a Chinese student. Students traveling will raise money to cover the cost of about $2,000 to fly to China.

“During the day, we will do large group activities like visiting the state capitol, Mall of America and at night the host family will provide dinner and a place to sleep. They will be here for 10 days. The middle weekend the host family will take the exchange student and do a fun ‘family’ activity,” Wells said. July 2014 our students will go to China with the same type of host family.

Before coming to Cedar Falls, Wells served as the superintendent of Winterset schools, a district with a sister city exchange program with Mini Alps, Japan.

Wells’ daughter Beth, a sophomore at CFHS, went on the Winterset exchange last summer. “The Japanese culture is more polite than we are. It makes you think about how you treat people and how people with different backgrounds react to what you say to them,” Beth said.

“As long as you’re independent, social and creative you’ll be really good there and have a good experience,” Beth said.

“I just think it was a great experience because it opened my eyes to a new culture, and I hope other students are able to experience the same thing I experienced,” Beth said.

Wells and his daughter agree there are many advantages to a world class school. “I think it would provide a wonderful opportunity for students to gain understanding for another culture, a culture very different from ours. I think it would also reinforce how blessed we are in America. We have so much. An immersion program allows you to experience how other people live and hopefully a greater respect for other people. One component of a world class school is global citizenship. We have very limited global experiences in Cedar Falls, so this willprovide such opportunity,” Wells said.

“The greatest benefit is gaining an understanding of other people, to gain an appreciation of other people. Understanding others will help us develop respect for the Chinese and them for us. It is very possible that many of our graduates will have professions that will be global, and this will help them to be successful,” Wells said.

There are many differences between the American and Chinese cultures. “The Chinese want to come to America to study, why? Because we have the greatest educational system in the world. Our students will gain an understanding of the Chinese educational system, the communist government and the Chinese culture. When I send an email to China it often takes weeks to get a response, why? Because it is a communist government and it runs through a government filter system and then to individuals. We take privacy for granted in our country; the Chinese do not experience the same rights as we have,” Wells said.

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