A peek at life in U.S. schools

Ingrid Chan, Staff Writer

Believe it or not, Diamond Bar High School just welcomed a whole lot more Chinese students this past month. Starting Jan. 29, four groups of students from China each spent a week attending DBHS to experience the difference between the American education system and their own.

The first week of this program had Chinese students coming to DBHS from two different Chinese districts. Then there was the arrival of a third group the week after that, and a fourth batch of kids stopped by just last week.

The size of each group ranged from around 20 to 30 students with most of them being sophomores or juniors.

“Sometimes with a big group it’s difficult because you are trying to figure out how to incorporate them into the classroom,” AP US History teacher Ty Watkins said.

Instructional Dean Gabriel Aguilar is one of the central coordinators in this arrangement, having set up a system where Chinese students from different schools will visit DBHS for one week each while participating in a variety of hands-on classes such as Graphic Arts, Video Production, Woodshop, Photography, and even History.

“Just imagine if you were going to go to another country to visit a different school during your vacation. Would you want to be in a math class or something with similar academic stress? I tried to take a look at it from the perspective of these students,” Aguilar said.

During their five-day long attendance at DBHS, the international students were split into smaller groups of around five, and then proceeded to shift from class to class throughout the school day in their groups.

“It’s going to a be great opportunity for them to interact with our students, and also a positive thing for American students as well. The teachers have done a great job at welcoming the students here and giving them a good impression of the educational system in the United States,” Aguilar said.

The idea of having international students visit originated at Walnut High School, but this year WHS is not participating and Diamond Bar High School is the one partaking in the program.

It began about four years ago as an extension of the summer school exchange between U.S. and Chinese schools.

The offer of having students visit DBHS was directed at international students who wanted to come in order to gain experience and learn English. Most of them come from English emerging schools, so every student who comes from China to DBHS speaks English and are here to practice and develop their conversational skills.

To further break the language barrier that some students were struggling with, teachers were present to help translate as well as many DBHS students who speak Mandarin.

“They were very humble and didn’t expect much, so everything that we did with them they were very grateful for. They were also quick learners and picked things up quickly,” photography teacher William Foley said.

The international students were here in America as part of an international educational program. They spent two weeks here in the United States; one for traveling and sightseeing — visiting parks such as Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Disneyland — and another for visiting both high schools and colleges.

This sort of program is seen more commonly in middle schools than in high schools — and is also present in some elementary schools — as junior high students have more flexible schedules, making it easier to incorporate the visiting students, who usually come during their school breaks.

“There’s always a market of Chinese students willing to travel to America, but we’re also looking into sending some of our students overseas as well. We’ve talked about some programs DBHS might want to participate in although we currently don’t do anything like this yet,” Aguilar said.