Arts exchange program brings Chinese, Minnesota students togetherby Gina Reis, Minnesota Public Radio
Golden Valley, Minn. — A group of high school students from China return home tomorrow, after two weeks of being part of student, civic and arts life in Minnesota.
The 13 students from Luoyang #1 Senior High School got to know their peers at the Arts High School at the Perpich Center in Golden Valley, as part of a cultural exchange program organized by Perpich Center for Arts Education.
Part of the time, the Chinese students took dance classes alongside Arts High dance students, under the direction of instructor Mary Harding. On Friday night they performed a final show together.
Many of the Chinese students did not have any background in dance.
"[When] our teacher told us about the dance classes, I felt very excited and happy," said Zhang Zhuo, who has had six years of dance experience.
She said the other students quickly warmed up when they got the chance to dance.
"At first they felt shy but then when Mary gave our classes they felt very relaxed and excited," Zhang Zhuo said.
In addition to dance classes, the Chinese students also attended other arts and academic classes with Minnesota students. They also lived together in dorms where about half of Arts High Students live during the week, and visited their families around Minnesota on the weekends.
For the Chinese New Year, the Chinese students made everyone in the dorms dumplings.
Dance teacher Mary Harding said the Chinese and Minnesota students had no problem connecting despite the cultural difference, and occasional language barriers.
"Kids are kids, and they are watching scary movies, they are all texting," said Harding. "They're of a generation that is so connected in a way that was not happening in my high school years. It's just so different. That's a huge message, that young people are the same the world over."
Seven Arts High students, along with Harding and one other faculty member, will be traveling to Luoyang Senior High in China during their spring break to see the school, sight-see, and of course, visit their new friends.
Perpich Center officials hope the exchange will become a permanent annual program.