Sure there are some language barriers, cultural differences and educational difficulties, but Chinese student Michelle Kan said the strangest thing about her time in Wayland so far is the skunks.
"I've never smelled a skunk before," Kan said, wrinkling her nose. Kan, like the five other students taking part in the first China Exchange Program with Wayland High School, lives in busy, urban Beijing, China. For Kan, Wayland is "quiet, beautiful, relaxing and perfect."
Excepting the skunks, of course.
On Thursday, members of WHS and district administration as well as members of the community officially welcomed the six students and two teachers from the Yuan Branch of the Jingshan School in Beijing. They will be in Wayland through the end of November as students from WHS attend classes in Beijing.
"I'm really thrilled to welcome our new friends from China," Superintendent Paul Stein said during Thursday's reception in the Lecture Hall at WHS. "These kinds of programs have a powerful impact on people in terms of changing the way people think and feel about a different culture.
"Our countries really do need to understand each other better as two great world powers."
Kan said she is spending her first few school days at WHS shadowing her host. Each student is staying with a Wayland family during his/her time in town. Next week, Kan will select the classes she wants to attend full time during her trip. She said she is leaning toward an art class -- she likes to draw -- math and physics classes.
"It's so different from China," Kan said of her first impressions of Wayland and the United States. She described that, in particular, students remain in a single classroom throughout the school day in China and teachers rotate into that classroom for their subjects. At WHS, of course, it is the students who move to different classrooms for the different subjects.
WHS principal Pat Tutwiler visited China earlier this year and said he remains excited about the relationship being established between WHS and the Jingshan school.
"The benefits of our relationship with the Yuan Branch of the Jingshan School are deep and far-reaching," Tutwiler said, explaining that the benefits extend beyond the students to the professional educators who can exchange ideas.
"While the culture and ideas exchange are the big ideas and benefits about which we are familiar, I have a funny feeling that there will be more, equally profound benefits that we have yet to even think about."