The Richmond Register

February 4, 2013

Hong Kong students visit America for first time

Model enters third year of exchange program

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Some things are just cheaper in America than they are in Hong Kong, like Godiva chocolate and clothes, a group of Hong Kong exchange students said Monday at Model Laboratory School.

The five students and their teacher reflected on their first visit to America so far.

None had ever seen snow until this past weekend.

“It doesn’t snow in Hong Kong,” said Greek Chow, 16, a Class 5 (11th-grade) student.

Although they all agreed that Kentucky is much colder than they are accustomed to, the snow was “very beautiful,” said 16-year-old Class 4 (junior) student Sunny Tung.

Sunny has enjoyed American spaghetti, she said, better than the spaghetti she’s eaten in Hong Kong.

English teacher Esther Tong was struck by the many televised sporting events in America.

“The Super Bowl is really ... super,” she said.

The students from Hong Kong are visiting as part of an exchange program that has been going for three years, said James Dantic, Model director.

“Several years ago, when we created a vision for the future of our school, we decided we wanted our students to be more engaged internationally,” Dantic said. “With this exchange program, students spend time with someone their age (from another country) — it’s a unique experience.”

The visitors from Model’s sister school, Ling Liang Church E Wun Secondary School, arrived Friday and will stay with host families through Feb. 12.

Model students junior Sara Elliot, 16; junior Trisha Brockmeyer, 17; sophomore Christina Schwartz, 15; sophomore Milam Douglas, 15; and freshman JP Damron, 15 will visit Hong Kong from March 2 through 14.

After parental permission is granted, Model students are required to complete an application process to participate, including an essay and three teacher recommendations, Dantic said.

Model is partnered with E Wun School through the International Alliance of Invitational Education (IAIE). Teachers from E Wun, along with several other Hong Kong educators, visited Richmond in October 2011 to attend the IAIE conference conducted at Eastern Kentucky University.

“Participation in the student-exchange program gives our high school students the opportunity to get a global perspective, interact with people from a different culture, gain some fluency in a new language, forge lifelong friendships and enhance their global career opportunities,” said Michelle Lemmon, the program’s coordinator.

During each exchange, students and their teacher-chaperones attend classes with their host students on some days and follow their host students’ schedules, she said.

On Monday, the Hong Kong students conducted a presentation about Hong Kong to an Asian studies class taught by Bryan Wilson, a chaperone from last year’s exchange.

Hong Kong, which began as a small fishing village, literally means “fragrant harbor,” the class learned during the presentation. Seven million people live in Hong Kong, and they mainly speak Cantonese and Mandarin dialects of Chinese.

Children in Hong Kong also are required to learn English, starting in kindergarten, Ms. Tong said. 

After their presentation, the Hong Kong students helped Model kindergartners construct paper lanterns to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Each school has planned special events and activities for the exchange students to share unique cultural and educational experiences. In addition, students and their teacher chaperones participate in various activities with their host families, especially on weekends, Lemmon said.

On Saturday, some students went tubing at Perfect North Slopes. Today, they are scheduled to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Frazier History Museum. Other destinations include a trip to Carter Caves, a Model regional swim meet, Cumberland Falls and the Original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Corbin. 

On Feb. 9, the students and their host families will visit Berea and the Whistlestop Horse Stables to walk with and ride horses. They will spend Chinese New Year (Feb. 10) at Snug Hollow Farm in Estill County.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.