Chinese Guests and Corbett Prep Students Build Cultural Connections
Six Beijing students spend a month at Corbett Prep, a fun way to experience a multicultural education for students from both countries.
Feb. 19, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – For Lorenzo Largent and other Middle School students, learning about Chinese life and customs turned into an experience beyond what they could have learned from books alone.
“The only way to actually learn a culture is to go to those cultures or have someone stay with you,” said Lorenzo, a seventh grader at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS.
Lorenzo’s family was among those who hosted six students from Beijing this month, a fun and educational experience for students from both countries.
Jingzhou, Xinyang, Ziwei, Ruotong, Jiayi and Yingge — known by their American names of Chris, Leo, Cindy, Sophia, Jennifer and Cici, respectively — taught Corbett Prep students about cultural traditions, school routines, language differences, food and more. The students attend different schools in Beijing, but all are middle school-aged. Only Leo had visited Tampa before.
Developing ties with Chinese schools is part of Corbett Prep’s overall mission to deliver a multicultural education, teaching students to think internationally and globally to prepare them for the future. Corbett Prep has a longstanding relationship with schools in Spain through educator trainings and student trips and has been building upon its links to China.
An understanding of Chinese culture is important today as China’s size and political and economic significance continue to grow. Middle School students at Corbett Prep have the opportunity to enroll in a Chinese language elective taught via Skype by a native speaker from the Nanshan district of Shenzhen, China. Students can also take a summer educational tour of China through Corbett Prep’s Camp IDS.
The visit from the Beijing students this year allowed Corbett Prep students to learn more about China firsthand.
Early Primary students practiced morning exercises with the Chinese visitors to start the school day, and the entire Middle School celebrated the Chinese New Year with a special assembly. Corbett Prep students watched a presentation the Chinese students created about their country, offering a spontaneous standing ovation to one of the students who performed a beautiful, traditional dance. Later, all Middle School students gathered in small groups to learn to write “Happy New Year” in traditional Chinese characters.
In addition to spending time in the Middle School, the Chinese students visited the Florida Aquarium, ate Cuban food in Ybor City, watched the manatees at Apollo Beach and learned about manufacturing and Tampa history during a tour of Vigo Importing Co. Their host families showed their guests around too, whether heading to the beach or hitting Busch Gardens and the Orlando theme parks.
American and Chinese students both enjoyed exchanging examples of the similarities and differences in their lives, big and small.
Sixth grader Maya Harrell, whose family hosted Cici, said one of the first differences she noticed was that Cici asked her if she should change her shoes before walking into her bedroom.
The month they spent together gave Maya the chance to learn some Chinese words and how to count in Chinese. Cici also showed Maya how to use chopsticks, although Cici enjoyed the American food she ate — especially the cheeseburgers, chicken fingers and pasta, she said.
The food stood out to Sophia as well, who was matched up with sixth graders Dane and Sophe Dunnivant.
“Here, dinner is big and lunch is small,” said Sophia, who is also in sixth grade. “In China, lunch is big, dinner is small.”
One surprise to Sophia was going to a Chinese restaurant in Tampa, which she said differed from the food she was used to at home. She cooked the Dunnivants dumplings to try.
For Lorenzo, the visit with Chinese students let him reconnect with Leo, a seventh grader he and Ben Jones had hosted on a previous trip. Lorenzo had also toured China with Camp IDS the summer before he entered sixth grade. He said he feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to see and experience China and to spend time with Leo one-on-one.
An understanding of different cultures is just one benefit of the connections Corbett Prep is building abroad. Beyond gaining information about other countries, the students are developing lifelong friendships.