China students make return visit to their sister school in Shelton

There was debate between the U.S. and China on Tuesday at Shelton High School, but not over tariffs or immigration.

In the cafeteria, Andrew Kluk, a Shelton Student Ambassador dressed in a green Jets Football hoodie, and Iric Liujiangshuo of Jianping high school exchanged intel on sports.

Liujiangshuo said he was surprised to hear that among the teams Kluk rattled off — football, soccer, baseball, swimming and volleyball — badminton was not among them.

Upstairs, Seungmin Lee, a Shelton High junior, and Bonnie Liu of China professed a budding friendship when an observer asked if chemistry, the class they were both sitting in on, was easy.

“Yeah,” Lee responded almost spontaneously to Liu’s emphatic “no.”

Liu followed up with an apologetic “so, so,” explaining that she is more into music than science. Plus, she said, she was very impressed with Shelton’s High’s growing collection of wall murals.

If the two delegations seemed relaxed in their school-to-school daylong meeting of the minds, it may be because it was not the first time they’ve met.

A year ago, Jianping, an urban high school in one of the most densely populated cities in the world, sent its first group of students and teachers to see what life is like in Shelton and start the process of creating a sister school relationship.

School Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, along with Headmaster Beth Smith, the school’s social studies director and assistant stem director, returned the favor by visiting Jianping in April 2018 for an educational conference and to spend several days.

Smith described the school as a mini compound where students travel between buildings for classes but had free rein of the campus during off time.

In Chinese classes, she saw no cell phones out, and described the students she met as very education oriented.

“They are so focused,” Smith said.

Clouet called the trip — which officials say was paid for by China — amazing.

Clouet said he came away convinced that China is a beautiful vast country that is not out to “get us.”

Garrick Yau, the co-owner of EPE Group, a Westchester County, N.Y., company that facilitates sister school arrangements between the two countries, said the January 2019 trip included 23 students, most of them sophomores and dressed in matching black and white windbreakers, and two teachers. Of the two, Shen Hong, spoke the best English.

So far, the students have been to New York, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston. Yau said the trip is not much different than last year, when international tensions weren’t as high.

There were long lines at the airport but Yau attributed that to the government shutdown and not the current political climate.

“When it comes to coming to the states, I think education and the cultural experience overtakes the political thing,” Yau said.

Before this visit, Smith said the Chinese students filled out questionnaires on their favorite subjects — and used the answers to pair the student with American students.

After Smith greeted the delegation with a “Nǐ hǎo” — Mandarin for good morning — both sides exchanged gifts.

The Chinese students all got Gael Hawk Identification lanyards and lunch tickets. Teacher swag included book bags filled with the Shelton course catalog, student handbook, a sunglass case and coffee mug. Shelton High got a calligraphy scroll painted by a Jianping teacher that Smith promised to hang in the main office, a school flag and school video.

Before spending the rest of the day following Shelton students around to their classes and lunch, the group posed for a picture on the high school’s stone steps, just as it began to flurry.

Though cold without their jackets, it seemed to please Jane Wu, 15.

“It seldom snows at home,” she said, before Ashia Askew, a Shelton student ambassador took her to an English class.

“I want them to know we are a smart school,” Askew said. “We are smart but like having fun too.”

Kyla Homan, 16, a Shelton High junior, took Sophia Li, also a junior, to sit in the back row of a Spanish class.

“Hola,” the teacher greeted them.

Before the day ended, two students from China did a presentation about their experiences being a student in China to teachers while the rest of the delegation saw a demonstration by Gael Hawks robotics team.

Clouet said the hope is that in a year’s time, now that the partnership has been sealed, Shelton will send a group of its students to Jianping,; twitter/lclambeck