“They Are Just Like Us”

From the Daily Herald in Utah:

Alpine School District’s first set of Chinese dual language immersion students aren’t so little anymore.

…It’s been a tough decade for the students. They’ve been in the same classes their entire lives, helping each other through classes where they might not have understood a single word from their Chinese teacher.

Lonergan remembers being a fourth grader and crying at the kitchen table about how hard it was. Her parents reassured her it would get easier.

“I am so happy that they made me stick with it, because I have all this knowledge I can take throughout my whole life,” she said.

…“I struggled for the first few days, and then I’d go up and start the conversation in Chinese instead of English,” said Edwin Nazario, a senior enrolled in a Chinese class at Orem High School. “It got so much easier.”

Native speakers in Suzhou tried to help the students communicate.

“People are usually nice when they figure out you are a foreigner who spoke Chinese,” said William Reyneke, a senior enrolled in a Chinese class at Orem High School.

The students met teenagers from around the world. For Lauren Heath, a senior and Alan Heath’s daughter, it helped humanize them.

“They are just like us,” she said. “They are teenagers, just like us.”

This is why we need more exchange programs.