DERRY -- Traveling thousands of miles, and a cultural world apart, 14 Chinese students from Pinkerton Academy’s sister high school in China visited this week as part of an exchange program between the two schools.
Three teachers accompanied the group of students, all sophomores, from the Tanggu No. 1 School in the town of Tianjin, just southwest of Beijing. Tianjin is in a densely populated urban area that stands in sharp contrast to the more rural character of the Granite State .
What seemed to stand out most for the students is the natural beauty of New Hampshire, with its verdant forests and fields.
“I think America is very attractive,” said student Chen Yi Dan. “The environment is very good. It’s just like heaven for us.”
Yi Dan and the other Chinese students are being hosted by a group of Pinkerton students who traveled to Tianjin in April, said Skip Underhill, Pinkerton’s executive director of public affairs. Every fall, the Chinese students come to visit with Pinkerton students for two weeks; every spring, Pinkerton students travel to China for two weeks.
“The conversation today is about the Chinese students visiting here, but an interesting point of context is at Pinkerton, if you want to attend the China program in the spring, you take a course,” Underhill said.
In that course, Pinkerton students are required to learn about China and also develop a research project they must present when they return from China.
“So when you are in China, you aren’t just sightseeing, you are taking note of the social hierarchy, music, dance, education and government,” Underhill said. “We aren’t just letting the kids go and have a good time.”
Students are required to pay for the trips and hold fundraisers during the year, Underhill said.
Yi Dan said this is the second time she has traveled to the U.S., and she was struck once again by the friendliness of Americans. She said she was surprised when people in restaurants and other businesses took the time to greet her. In the part of China where she lives, the pace is much faster, she said.
When she has spare time, Yi Dan said she enjoys swimming and running. She and fellow student Jia Zheng said they also like to participate in a variety of activities such as photography, debating and chorus. Zheng said he enjoys athletics, such as basketball and soccer. He said he is a fan of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team and now-retired David Beckham.
Zheng said the students had fun visiting Hampton Beach, where they enjoyed a shrimp dinner. The students found the water extremely cold but still liked being on the beach and near the ocean.
On Tuesday, the group shared ice cream with the Pinkerton Student Council members and later enjoyed playing a game of Wiffle ball. Based on their smiles, the activities seemed to reduce the distance between the two cultures .