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Chinese exchange students treated to 'day in the life of your average Springdale kid'

| Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, 9:57 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Chinese exchange student Yang Jinzong, 14, shares a light moment with his host family member Luke Whiteman, 17, and his mother Beth Ludchak during a welcome luncheon at Springdale High School on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Springdale High School history teacher and China Exchange Liason Nick Spehar talks with (from left) exchange student Jia Fuham, 14, Katie Adler, 17, Amber Adler, 14, and Ray Ludchak during a welcome luncheon at Springdale High School on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014.

A group of Chinese exchange students visiting Springdale High School got a crash course in the life of an American student — a day at school, pizza on a Saturday afternoon and an evening of bowling.

They plan to tour Pittsburgh on Sunday, including a trip up the Duquesne Incline to Mt. Washington, a visit to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and a meal at Primanti Brothers.

The group of 10 middle school students and two teachers from the city of Shijiazhuang, in the northeastern part of the country, arrived late Thursday evening. Each is staying with a host family in the area.

On Friday, the exchange students went to class with the students with whom they're staying, ate a cafeteria lunch with them and participated in gym class.

That evening, they attended the Springdale basketball game.

“They lived a day in the life of your average Springdale kid,” said Springdale history teacher Nick Spehar, who helped organize the visit. “I think that was the best possible thing, rather than doing something like a tour of the school.”

The trip is part of the China Exchange Initiative.

A school administrator from China visited Allegheny Valley School District in October 2012. Janice Nuzzo, the district's director of student achievement, and Spehar went to China separately in 2013.

Saturday, the exchange students and their host families gathered for lunch in the high school cafeteria.

Afterward, the Chinese students, who speak English with varying proficiency, confidently gave short presentations. They ranged in topic from culture, dress and religion to the importance of family and how young people support and care for their parents once they grow older.

Then the students gathered in small groups to discuss the environment, pollution and recycling.

Several of the exchange students spoke about how clean the air is here.

“In America, the weather is much better, because in China there is so much pollution,” said Bai Boyoan, 14, an eighth-grader. “Everywhere, you can look up and see the blue sky. At home, sometimes you cannot see it.”

Bai admired the Springdale High building.

“In China, we don't have such a building because there are so many people,” he said.

Overall, the exchange students said they've enjoyed their experience so far. They learned a lot from their day of classes.

“I like the school. It's very quiet and clean,” said Jiao Youlin, 14. “The teachers are good, and the students are very kind.”

Bai said he enjoyed the STEM class in which students learn science, technology, engineering and math concepts.

He said his classes in China are more advanced than what Springdale students are learning.

He noted that students here don't have as much homework and seem to have more free time to do whatever they would like.

“Our day is: get up, eat breakfast, study, eat lunch, study, then go to bed,” Bai said.

His host, Brogan McCutcheon, 13, an eighth-grader, said it's been a fun experience having a foreign exchange student stay with them.

“He showed us games that they play and talked to us about the language,” he said. “The pronunciation is a lot harder; the tones mean different things.”

Bai also made his host family a breakfast on Saturday morning: an omelet with onions and a sweet omelet.

Liu Wei, who teaches English to high school students in China, said the trip changed her perception of American students.

Before her trip, she thought most American kids were more concerned with what they wear and how they look than their education.

“I think they are good and hardworking and busy,” said Liu, who spent time in six classes on Friday.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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