Farmington, Maine recently welcomed 20 exchange students from Hong Kong. The students, mostly eighth and ninth graders, enjoyed a wide variety of Maine activities while taking English classes taught by the University of Maine at Farmington students, helping the UMF students gain a certification to teach English to Maine’s increasingly linguistically diverse population.
As part of an exchange program organized by HKMA David Li Kwok Po College in Hong Kong, the students spent two weeks in central Maine, immersing themselves into the Farmington community. The group partook in popular local activities such as the Wilton Blueberry Festival, trips to local farms, and camping expeditions. The students experienced life in rural Maine, enjoying meals prepared by local families and staying at UMF residence halls.
The Farmington community, including UMF, benefited from the visit as well. UMF hosted daily English classes for the students, with UMF education students serving as instructors. Teaching these classes allowed the aspiring educators to gain valuable experience and make progress on their English Language Learners (ELL) certificate, which allows them to serve as state-accredited ELL teachers. Over 5,000 English language learners attend K-12 schools in Maine, over 200 of whom speak Chinese as their first language. This teaching experience fulfills the internship requirement for UMF’s ELL certificate, preparing them to Maine’s diverse and growing group of ELL students who are increasingly in need of qualified teachers.
Educational exchange between the United States and China is deeply rooted, with scholarships and opportunities supporting students in both countries. Chinese students make up the highest percentage of international students in the United States, with over 350,000 students contributing nearly $12 billion to the US economy. Maine hosts 309 Chinese students who contribute over $12 million to the state’s economy and enrich local communities with a vast array of perspectives and experiences. Though Maine and China are not often thought of as closely connected, Chinese visitors spent over $95 million in Maine in 2017, up almost 8% from 2016. With the UMF-HKMA David Li Kwok Po College partnership in just its first year, Maine-China connections are set to continue growing stronger.
Luke Pluta-Ehlers is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying Global Studies and Geography.
[Image: MaineToday Media Michael G. Seamans]