1. Why China?
China is the world’s most populous country and has one of the world’s largest economies. Being familiar with the country will open doors for future careers in all fields, especially business, law, education, and diplomacy. For the sake of good decision-making in our democracy, it is important that Americans are knowledgeable about this large, important nation. China is a country with a dazzling cultural heritage. Learning about China enriches our lives and deepens our understanding not only of Chinese culture, but also of our own.
2. How can I interest my school and community in building a partnership with a Chinese school?
- Sell it:
At every opportunity, point out that international experiences are vital to preparing students for success in the 21st century. Try to build on the existing interest in world events to generate deeper interest in China.Explain that having a Chinese partner school provides opportunities for teachers and students to actually experience school and family life in China. Such an experience opens eyes and doors to exciting study and career opportunities.
- Get Teachers Involved:
Encourage your teachers to participate in professional development programs and study tours. Give them time and resources to update curricula with information on contemporary China and to collaborate with teachers in other departments.
- Reach Out to the Community:
Get students and parents excited. You can arrange celebrations of Chinese festivals, offer language classes (on site or virtual), start clubs about Chinese art/culture/calligraphy, etc. Hosting a group of students and teachers from China is also a great way to raise awareness and interest in studying the language and culture.
3. Who Benefits from a US-China School Partnership?
While students and teachers who host Chinese visitors and travel to China are the most direct beneficiaries of US-China school exchange programs, sister school relationships benefit entire schools and communities as well. Visitors from China bring a bit of that country into the schools they attend and communities in which they live. Americans who travel to China return with first-hand knowledge and insights, spreading the wealth to their families, friends, classmates, and teachers.
4. How much does an exchange trip to China cost?
Exchange trips to China are surprisingly inexpensive. Airfare to China is the biggest expense; a round-trip ticket costs $1,000-$1,500. Americans must also get a China visa, which costs $140. In China, the majority of time will be spent living with host families from your partner school, which costs nothing and dramatically lowers the cost of the exchange, though participants should bring gifts for their host family. Your partner school will provide local sight seeing and cultural events. If your group decides to travel beyond the partner school, they must cover their own expenses. With good planning, a 15-day exchange trip can be kept close to $2,500.
5. What’s involved in hosting Chinese students and teachers?
The American school is responsible for preparing and sending a formal letter of invitation for the Chinese visitor’s visa application, finding host families, scheduling classes, planning activities, and providing lunch, school bus services, and entrance fees to school events. Host families are then responsible for providing all other meals. Exchange Committee members can also get involved by taking visitors sight seeing, to sporting or cultural events, and by organizing welcome and farewell events.The Chinese visitors will cover all travel expenses, such as airfare and visa application fees. If they decide to travel beyond the program, they will do so at their own expense.
6. What does it take to run a successful US-China exchange program?
A successful program requires time and commitment, but it is well worth the effort. On the most basic level, it requires dedicated educators that really understand the value of an exchange and the opportunities it creates. Day to day responsibilities include recruiting students and teachers, selecting host families, preparing an itinerary for hosting and traveling to China, managing communications with the partner school, coordinating volunteers, and “marketing” the program. Creating a program steering committee composed of teachers, administrators, and parents is a great way to share some of these responsibilities and reduce the administrative burden.
7. How can we sustain a successful school partnership?
An exchange program will thrive over many years if it has a broad base of support within the school and the community. Find and engage administrators, teachers, and parents who recognize the value of an exchange and will work to help it grow. Provide an educational context for the program with related curriculum and language study. Reduce costs and maximize the experience by focusing on school and home-stays rather than on tourism. Invite the exchange teachers and students to share their school, culture, art, music, etc. with other schools in your district and with organizations in the community, such as local Rotary clubs or retirement homes. Keep the community engaged in events, hosting, and fundraising. Be sure to maintain open and on-going communication with your host school throughout the year to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that problems are quickly solved.For ideas about potential programs and different ways to collaborate with your partner school see our Next Steps Guide.