Organized in partnership with the Fort Bend County Global Initiative, the District’s annual trip to China is meant to give high school students an academic and cultural experience abroad. The two-week trip, held in January, is part of an annual student exchange that partners FBISD students with students from one of the District’s sister school, Foshan #2 High School, in China. The students are immersed in local culture and they return with expanded perspectives of themselves and the world. The trip, now in its third year, is a great example of how the District’s partnerships enhance the education of its students.
The students who participated in the 2017 trip were, by high school:
Austin – Shea Davis
Clements – Madison Taylor, and Ross Trivisonno
Dulles – Marina Baez, Jessica Chambers, Ashley Clopton, Nicole Quintero and Taylor Zylicz
Elkins – Raegan Cruse, Abraham Pazhoor, and Lindsey Strickler
Hightower – Elijah Hughes, William Johnson and Navneet Venugopal
Kempner – Cierra Farris
Ridge Point – Natalie Bassett, Seth Brotherton, and Megan Van der Walt
Willowridge – Terrian Spurs
The group began the trip in Beijing, spending two days sightseeing and visiting historical landmarks including the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. After that, they traveled to Guanzhou/Foshan, where the group remained for the duration of the trip, in addition to a quick trip to Hong Kong.
Terrian Spurs, a junior at Willowridge High School, hoped to learn more about the history of China, outside of the classroom. When asked about the highlights of the trip, she noted the time spent learning about calligraphy and traditional Chinese music and dance as her favorites. The trip has even sparked an interest in pursuing international business as a career path. She has nothing but encouraging things to say to other students considering the trip.
“I would encourage other students to participate in this once in a lifetime experience,” said spurs. “Students will learn a lot from this trip and make unforgettable memories and friends.”
In Guanzhou/Foshan, the students became part of the student body at Foshan #2 High School. They were paired with local students and were able to communicate in advance with their host friends and family. They were given uniforms, attended classes taught in English, and like their classmates, stayed in dormitories during the week. During the weekend, the students were able to live with their host families and enjoy local activities.
The annual trip is just one part of the District’s partnership with the Fort Bend County Global Initiative. Each fall, students from Foshan #2 High School visit Houston and live the Fort Bend ISD experience. Families host the students and they attend school and events with their District counterpart. Lorelei Thorp, the FBISD Global Initiative Program Coordinator, has already seen a relationship between these two parts of the exchange. Families who host visiting students from China are often among the families whose students participate in the trip to China. This is what led Kempner student Cierra Farris to apply for the trip – her family hosted a Chinese student who Cierra now considers part of her family. The two students were even able to reconnect during the group’s trip to China.
“When I went to China it was amazing to meet her again and to meet her family,” she said. “This trip, or even hosting a student, will give you everlasting friendships and experiences if you keep an open mindset.”
District administrators have also begun talking about how to expand the partnership with the Fort Bend County Global Initiative. Possibilities include creating a teacher exchange with the sister schools in China. The District hosted a group of students from Taiwan in the fall and there is an opportunity for FBISD students to visit Taiwan in a similar type of exchange. In whatever ways the partnership grows, Fort Bend students will continue to experience the life-changing power of exposure to and immersion in another culture.
“For me, that’s the big thing – getting them to think about other places. It opens up a whole new world for them,” said Thorp. “All of the students come back changed.”
The students, high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, were accompanied by District administrators, board members and educators. They were: FBISD Board Trustees KP George and Grayle James; Steve Bassett, FBISD Chief Financial Officer; Dr. Anthony Indelicato, Assistant Superintendent; Lorelei Thorp, ESL Teacher at Kempner High School; and Meng-Yu Wang, Dulles High School Chinese teacher. Ms. Thorp and Ms. Wang have helped lead and facilitate the cultural exchange with China for the last three years.
Applications for the fall 2017 trip to China will be available districtwide, starting March 27, 2017. An informational meeting will be held at the Fort Bend ISD Board Room on April 5, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. The China trip is anticipated to occur on November 16-30, 2017.