What reason could high school students have to be at school by 6:45 am on a Thursday morning? The opportunity to Skype with their new friends in Beijing, China. For the second time in Five weeks, Mount Airy High School students have arrived before sunrise to speak with their international peers.
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. 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.
Sophomore Drew Tilley noted, “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.”
Senior Meredith Marion stated, “I am so grateful to be a part of this program as I have already started forming international relationships with students in Beijing. 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 valuable 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.
Dr. Kim Morrison, Superintendent, observed, “Connecting with students half-way around the world is amazing for our students. To have teenagers up and ready to interact at 6:45 am 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 unique 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 business critical 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 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 MAHS students for the week and have the opportunity to learn more about education in American, teenage routines, and Mount Airy, North Carolina. The Mandarin Chinese program also grew this school year to include Mount Airy Middle School. Currently, 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 MAHS student. In the spring, Mount Airy students will visit Beijing Royal School, stay in student housing, attend classes, and work on a service project.