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Yali Delegation Visits Hopkins

Julia Kosinski '21, Assistant News Editor
The Yali delegation’s visit to Hopkins marks a turning point in Hopkins’ global connection with other rigorous schools around the globe. On September 26, a delegation of twenty middle school students and three faculty members from the Yali-Peicui school in Changsha China arrived at Hopkins.
The exchange students visited for three days, participating in a home stay with Hopkins students before continuing their trip along the East coast.

Chang Sha, the capital city of the Hunan province located in South Central China, is the Chinese sister city of New Haven. When asked about how the connection between Hopkins and the Yali-Pecui school began, Lan Lin, Modern Language Department chair and Chinese teacher, explained, “The Yale China association connected Hopkins with the Yali-Peicui school. Last year they reached out to us with the news that they were in contact with a school in China who was looking for a sister school in the United States with the same kind of caliber and school environment. They thought Hopkins would be a great fit.”

This was the beginning of the Hopkins-Yali connection. In response to how she planned to build on the success of the first exchange, Lin discussed the next step: “We turned the page, and now we are already planning for the China trip. We are going to have a March break trip where our students will have a homestay and do what the Chinese students did here.” On September 27, the entire school gathered for Assembly to welcome the Yali delegation. Following Assistant Principal Mr. Cao’s address, translated by teacher Ms. Luo Tianjing, the twenty exchange students performed a Chinese poem titled “Shui Diao Ge Tou Zhong Qiu,” which translates to “Mid Autumn”.

In addition to gifts, Yali and Hopkins exchanged students’ hand-painted artwork. Art Department Chair, Robert Smith, described how this art project began last year in a meeting with the Principal of the Yali-Peicui school: “Initially I didn’t think the arts would be as much involved, until I found out that the Principal of the Yali-Peicui school is an art teacher.” He elaborated that he “thought this was probably a really good first step for us, because this would be two artists speaking to each other.” Smith shared how during last year’s visit to prepare for the exchange, the Yali-Peicui faculty were “really drawn to Mr. Ziou’s Fine Art III collage style paintings.” These paintings became the inspiration for the art collaboration, in which each school would recreate roughly half of a painting, and then the two halves would be assembled together.

Smith deferred to the Yali faculty to decide the subject matter: “The Yali art teacher chose a traditional Chinese scroll, a national treasure of theirs. It’s the only work of Wang Ximeng that we have left. I felt like to have students paint that was to form another connection that was beyond cultural, it’s also very human.” The Yali students brought their completed sections of Wang Ximing’s “A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains” to Hopkins. In the spring, Hopkins students will return the favor and bring a painting to be displayed at the Yali-Peuicui school.

The entire student body was given the opportunity to host a Yali-Peicui student. Gigi Fulginiti ’19 explained why she wanted to host: “I was lucky enough to live with a host family this summer, and I wanted to be able to offer the same unforgettable opportunity to someone else. Also, I was born in the same region that the students are from!”

Each host family had the opportunity to give their student a perspective on life in Connecticut. Liana Tilton ’19 said her highlight “was probably going apple picking at Bishop’s Orchards, something my student had never done before.” Elizabeth Czepiel ’20 recalled, “We went to the top of East Rock, and got lunch at the food trucks in New Haven. We wanted to give him a good feel for the area -- not just America, but also New Haven.”

The Yali-Peicui students opened up to their hosts about their thoughts on the Hopkins campus, and how America compared to their home city. Czepiel explained that her student “often compared America to China, and things like all our trees stood out to him in a good way.” William McCormack ’21 recalled how his student compared America to China: “In his school, they have 3,000 kids in a much smaller, crowded space. He thought America was really cool and very rural compared to his big Chinese city.” Fuginiti described her student’s reaction to Hopkins: “She thought that the campus was so beautiful and she loved how much open space there was. Compared to her school, she felt that Hopkins students had lots of freedom and free time. When we would ask her if she would like to live in the US she would say, ‘Yes, because everything in America is big!’”

Czepiel described her experience as a host, “The language barrier was much smaller than we expected. Our student was very cheerful and outgoing, so we got to know him quickly. He ended up calling us mom, dad, and sister. He even sometimes called us super-mom, super-dad, and super-sister!” Tilton noted a cultural difference between herself and her student: “In China, it is not polite to open gifts in front of the giver; whereas here, we all wait anxiously for someone to open our gift! We told our student that it was okay to open her gift in front of us. Luckily she liked it and responded with a big hug.” McCormack also shared a cultural difference: “We were having spaghetti and meatballs. I guess in China it is polite to slurp noodles, so he started slurping spaghetti.” Sophie Sonnenfeld ’21, who learned something from her student shared her experience: “My host student really liked Thor and The Avengers, so we watched Thor Ragnarok and I learned a lot. I ended up learning more about American culture, which was kind of funny.”

When asked about her plans to stay in contact with her host student, Fulginiti described how her student “really wanted to video chat so my family could meet hers. The only trouble is the time difference.”
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