THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Strengthens Intercultural Collaboration in 7th Annual Chinese Exchange

BFA Fairfax hosted it’s 7th annual Chinese Cultural Exchange program July 24-30. BFA Fairfax welcomed 17 students from Chongqing, China for a week of adventure and learning.

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Chongqing is a city of 30 million people, so our rural town presented a drastic change of pace! The visiting students enjoyed Vermont’s green landscape, clean air, and beautiful mountains.

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The Chinese students were graciously hosted by local families and attended the language and cultural immersion program at BFA Fairfax during the week. 12 BFA Fairfax students served as peer ambassadors to support the academic program. The program was coordinated by Sara Villeneuve and co-teacher Emily Nieckarz.

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This year, the students visiting from China ranged from 10-17 years old with language skills varying from emerging English learners to fluent speakers. Our Fairfax students embraced this challenge and learned new strategies to break through the language divide. Students could be found drawing pictures, sharing photographs and clip art with each other, using translation apps, and sometimes even acting it out.

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Each academic day students worked in learning teams on a curriculum designed to explore each others’ culture, geography, economy, politics, and education.  Accompanying field trips included the Vermont State House, Ben & Jerry’s, Saint Michael’s College, the University Mall, the Sweet Family farm, and Wandering Roots Blueberry Farm.

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Fairfax wasn’t the only stop on the students’ itinerary. Before arriving in Vermont they toured Boston, Washington D.C., New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  However, during that part of the trip, students were housed in hotels and Chinese guides led sightseeing in the cities. Fairfax became their home-away-from-home and our BFA Fairfax ambassadors were amazing teachers and friends.

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Our host families also provided amazing opportunities and took Chinese students hiking, kayaking, boating, shopping, to ball games, bonfires, weddings, family reunions, and more. Our Chinese visitors and their host families were also treated to a culminating celebration hosted by the DeCell family.

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This intercultural opportunity is made possible through a partnership with SPIRAL International, a Vermont based organization. This year SPIRAL brought 425 students to New England. Locally, programs were also run at MVU, Burlington High School, and Vermont Commons School.

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In connection with the summer cultural exchange, a new global citizenship opportunity has emerged.  At the end of October, eight of the student ambassadors will accompany Sara Villeneuve and Emily Nieckarz on an exciting journey to China. Students will visit three schools where they will present workshops to Chinese students about American culture and teach about education at BFA Fairfax.

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The relationships formed through this intercultural exchange program has resulted in many positive experiences for our student leaders, our visiting Chinese friends, and our host families. The lasting connections forged across cultures and languages make this partnership an important highlight of the summer for our school and community!

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