The following suggested schedule runs from spring of one year through spring of the next. It assumes that Chinese exchange delegations will visit the American schools in the fall and American exchange delegations will visit Chinese partner schools in the spring, and that each delegation will visit for four months, though procedures will be very similar even if the time frame is shifted or truncated.
- Select exchange teachers and students who will travel to China during the next school year. (This gives participants time to study, prepare, and bond.)
- Before the end of the school year, seek host families for the Chinese exchange teachers and students who will arrive in the fall. If at all possible, the students traveling to China should host an exchange student or teacher.
- Issue a formal letter of invitation to the Chinese delegation on school letterhead signed by the principal or superintendent. Include name, gender, and date and place of birth for each invited guest, plus the dates and purpose of the visit. (The Chinese participants will use this information to obtain their passports and visas.) Begin this process three months prior to departure.
- Maintain contact and assist visitors with the visa process.
- Remind visitors to send medical records of their inoculation history.
- Provide Chinese language classes and cultural orientation for American exchange students and teachers, if at all possible.
Hosting a Chinese Exchange Group
- Before the visitors arrive, meet with host families to discuss ways to make Chinese visitors feel most welcome in their homes and schedule times to talk during the hosting weeks or months.
- Using help from the members of the Steering Committee, plan welcoming activities: a reception by the superintendent or principal, a host family potluck supper, social events, and weekend excursions. (Perhaps maintain an on-line calendar.)
- Be sure that visitors are covered by health insurance that local physicians and hospitals will accept, and if not, enroll them in a short-term health insurance plan.
- Meet with the exchange visitors to provide orientation to school and home life in the U.S. and to clarify expectations of the exchange. Schedule regular informal get-togethers to check-in and talk over questions that arise.
- Register exchange students in appropriate classes, providing a mix of academic and elective courses. Encourage them to select some extra curricular activities that interest them.
- Create a schedule of observation and work for teachers. In addition to teaching Chinese, they will benefit from working in ELL classes and observing other teachers and classes that interest them.
- Schedule exchange teachers and students into classrooms to make presentations about Chinese culture, language, and history. (Share the attached suggestions for activities with teachers who will be organizing the events. The exchange group may need help to plan interactive activities.)
- Plan for holiday events.
- Include exchange visitors in planning a farewell banquet/potluck as a “thank you” to host families. Welcome their contributions of Chinese dishes.
- Prepare written evaluations of each visitor for school files.
- Gather reflections and suggestions from exchange visitors.
Preparations for Sending an American Exchange Group
- Provide cultural orientation and language classes for travelers throughout the fall semester. Ask the visiting Chinese exchange teachers and students for their help with Chinese language practice and information about school and home life.
- Make sure passports are valid or have travelers apply for new ones, if needed, months in advance of the departure date.
- Meet with families of the exchange students to discuss expectations of the program, travel, costs, health and travel insurance, and inoculations.
- Consult with school administrators on how to allocate credits for students and in-service credits for teachers for their participation in the exchange program.
- Obtain an official letter of invitation from the host school for stays over three months, as this is longer than a Chinese visitor visa permits.
Overseeing an American Exchange Group Prior to Departure:
- Apply for visas one month before departure. Your travel agent can help obtain visas for travelers.
- Have parents and adult students sign the school system’s medical and release forms.
- Purchase tickets through a travel agent experienced in Asia travel.
- Set up a system for communication while the group is away; use e-mail, Skype, and telephone as needed with families and with school personnel. Remind students that Facebook is blocked in China.
- Provide press coverage. Features on school websites, and articles in school and community newspapers will generate interest in the program and build support.
- Stay in touch with the exchange teachers and students and with the host school.
- Request regular written reflections and photos from the exchange teachers and students to feature on your school’s website and in your school’s publications.
- Ask the Chinese school for written performance assessments for students’ transcripts and teachers’ professional files.
- The American exchange group should invite their host families and Chinese school administrators and colleagues to a farewell banquet to thank them for their generous hospitality.
- Upon the group’s return, plan presentation/debriefing sessions. Exchange students and teachers will need to talk about their experiences. The Steering Committee, administrators and teachers, School Committee members, and especially the newly selected next exchange group and their families will want to hear from them.
- Gather reflections and suggestions from the exchange travelers for your exchange archives.
- Ask returning teachers to serve on the exchange Steering Committee in the future.