On their last day of a two-week visit at Century Junior High in Forest Lake, Kiwi, Georgina, and Amy shared their impressions of school in America.
The girls are from Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province and the largest city in northeast China.
Known at home as Titian Yuan, Kiwi is 14. She attends a foreign language school. Attractive and outgoing, her English is excellent and she is careful in what she says, sensitive to others’ feelings.
Georgina, real name Ziyuan Jin, is happy to take over a conversation, eager to be heard and make her point. With her English skills she could be mistaken for an American. The 13-year-old’s parents both speak English (her mother was Kiwi’s first English teacher), and Georgina’s father also knows Japanese.
RunZi Li, whom we call Amy, is 15—old enough to sit back and let the others do the talking. She has studied English for nine years and also knows a little Russian.
All three girls were placed in the eighth grade at Century. They took the required history, English, science, health and math, plus two electives.
Their four-week trip to America has sledding, a Chinese New Year celebration, swimming, seeing a deer, counting stars, going to the movies, and visiting the Mall of America on the itinerary.
Kiwi and Georgina stayed with Loren and Pat Grothe and Amy with Dick and Dalene Waskey, both Scandia families. The Grothes have a son who teaches at a school in China.
The girls agreed on some things, but not all.
In China, they said, girls do not wear jewelry or make-up, and they dress in uniforms. No personal electronic devices are allowed.
“Girls have to have short hair at school. Mine is too long now for my school,” Georgina said.
Students have more freedom here, Kiwi said.
“If a student wants to sharpen a pencil, he can go to the sharpener. If I stand up without permission in China, the teacher will have a private conversation with me after class,” she explained.
Georgina agreed. “Students here can talk about how they feel,” she added. “In China we don’t talk to the teachers a lot.”
Kiwi said there is more homework at her school in Shenyang. “We practice more. It’s good for us,” she said. “The regulation there is better for students to grow up. If I give up homework, my study becomes bad.”
There is pressure to practice for exams, Kiwi said. “Students need to work very hard, to go to a good high school, a good college to earn more money and have a better life.”
Amy has studied drawing and hopes to become an artist. She would like to visit the U.S. again.
Kiwi said she loves biology and chemistry, and would someday like to have her own plant and flower shop—and then own a restaurant.
Gina appreciated the clean drinking water in Minnesota. “In my apartment, the water looks like milk. It has chemicals in it. We have to boil our water,” she said.
She also noticed the fresh air. When she first arrived here, she said, “I think there’s too much oxygen.”
All three of the girls are only children with no siblings, products of China’s one-child rule.
And all three agreed on one thing they miss during their American trip: Chinese food, although Amy did speak up in favor of french fries.