Four middle schools in Ohio recently welcomed 36 students and four teachers from Lanzhou, China as part of an ongoing, annual program. Their visit coincided with the Lunar New Year celebrations on the 8th of February. Rossford, Fassett, Woodmore, and Lake middle schools all immersed the Chinese students in daily American routines as part of the Youth Ambassador Exchange program run by the American Cultural Exchange Service(ACES), and included homestay placements for the visiting students with local families. In the 3 week course, ACES involves the Chinese youth in American sports, culture, and food through field trips and education. One goal is for both American and Chinese students to gain new perspectives on foreign cultures as they compare education systems and family values. The local students got exposed to Chinese culture through art classes and China-themed events during the three-week program.
Chinese has become the fastest growing language. Partnerships such as Ohio University’s two exchange programs with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Hong Kong Baptist University also create opportunities for study in China without a language requirement. China’s outreach to Ohio schools can also be seen in the establishment of a Confucius Institute at the University of Akron, an international language and culture promotional organization funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education. Chinese student have become the largest subgroup of university students, representing 81% of all international students in Ohio.
Other forms of learning exchange between Ohio and China have also occurred. The Scientific Cooperation Exchange Program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, brought six Chinese agricultural specialists to Ohio in October, 2014 to discuss emerging agricultural technology. This followed another exchange which saw six agricultural educators visit China to discuss best urban agricultural practices. During their 10 day stay in Ohio, the Chinese visitors went to the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on Ohio State University’s main campus and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, establishing educational links and opportunities for international research cooperation. In addition, there were visits to Valley Vineyards Winery and Dole Food Company, encouraging Chinese trade and investment into Ohio.
Bowrun Hou is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Sydney.