As part of a pilot student exchange program, 12 students from the Hou Kong International School in Macau, China, traveled to Sammamish for two weeks to take part in Eastside Catholic School’s summer programming.
The exchange was born of the partnership between Central Washington University of Sammamish and the Hou Kong School. The two schools have a partnership with an ongoing teacher exchange program and have plans for future programs for Chinese students at CWU-Sammamish. In January, Sammamish City Council member Ramiro Valderrama facilitated a meeting with CWU-Sammamish, Hou Kong School, Eastside Catholic and the YMCA to discuss different types of partnerships and an exchange program.
The exchange pilot was put together quickly, but served as a starting point for the involved parties to see how this type of program could be done.
Steve Rudolf, assistant director of admissions and enrollment management at Eastside Catholic, said the two schools had settled on bringing over students for the summer camp services the school offers.
The 12 students, ages 13-15, arrived July 14 and left July 27. Eastside Catholic principal Barbara Swann explained that the exchange students were brought into the summer camps that the school normally offers each year. Here, they participated in some of the sports camps such as basketball, as well as enrichment camps including a forensic CSI class, a “dolphin tank” business class, cartooning and design and other arts enrichment classes.
Eastside Catholic students volunteering to help with summer caps also got a chance to interact with the exchange students. The Hou Kong School teaches Mandarin and English from a very early age, so the language barrier was relatively low, Swann said.
The school wanted to give the students activities that were not offered by their school back home, so the camps and classes were chosen to give the visiting students a new experience.
Aaron Ernst, a representative with the Hou Kong School, said in addition to classes, the students also went sightseeing around the area. They visited Snoqualmie Falls, the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, took a tour of Microsoft, and even went to a Seattle Sounders game.
Macau, Ernst said, is mostly high-rise buildings with very little open green-space. The Hou Kong School is very vertical, with its gymnasium on the eighth floor, he said. On the other hand, Eastside Catholic’s campus is very open and sits in the middle of a very green Eastside city. So the change in environment was a big difference as well.
In examining the pilot program, Swann said that in the future, she would like to integrate the students into the Eastside community a little bit better, by bringing the students to host families of students at the school. Due to time constraints, the exchange students stayed with host families in the Seattle area and were bused to the school.
Representatives from both schools thought the program had been successful and hope to continue the exchange program next year.