An overcrowded table of students sat in the center of a noisy common space during the lunch hour at John Sedgwick Junior High on Friday.
Atypical of many teens during their lunch hour, this group was carefully attentive and spoke clearly and articulately with their guests.
The table was an equal split of local John Sedgwick students and teens visiting Port Orchard from China through the Cultural Homestay International program.
The program is a nonprofit established in 1980 promoting international understanding and goodwill. The group pairs host families with traveling students from foreign countries.
The group of Chinese highschoolers is visiting the area for two weeks, and they’re staying with local residents as they meet other students their age, tour area landmarks and practice their English.
Friday, they got a glimpse of public education in the United States.
“We just want to see how the American students are starting, how their school lives are like,” said 16-year-old Jerry Ren, noting the differences he saw between his school and John Sedgwick. “They’re more active. (The students are) doing things they are willing to do. In China you must learn what they want you to learn.”
South Kitsap resident Jamie Fitch said she’s been asking the Chinese students endless questions about their lives across the Pacific Ocean.
“I feel it’s just a really great experience to have students from China to hang out with and learn from their experiences,” said Fitch, 15.
The Chinese students’ adult chaperones want students to see American life in action. The students’ principal, Xu Zhi Hui spoke through a teacher, Zhang Lu.
Zhang translated, “We want our students to know more about the American family — how do they live — and American students — how do they go to school and how do they spend their day.”
They said a learning multiple languages is key to their students’ education.
“If they do not understand languages, they cannot communicate with each other,” Zhang translated. “They should understand language well, not only one language, but two or more.”
The students have six sister schools across the world, and bring students to them year round.
For more information on Cultural Homestay International, visit www.chinet.org.