I am writing tonight from the other side of the world! Three St. Martin's administrators, Michelle Scandurro (Upper School Division Head), Laurie Stewart (Director of Admission), Jennifer Wang (Director of International Program), and I are traveling through China to develop our international student/teacher exchange program. This trip has reinforced for us the importance of exposing each of our students to a global education.
I am writing tonight from the other side of the world! Three St. Martin's administrators, Michelle Scandurro (Upper School Division Head), Laurie Stewart (Director of Admission), Jennifer Wang (Director of International Program), and I are traveling through China to develop our international student/teacher exchange program. This trip has reinforced for us the importance of exposing each of our students to a global education. Our traveling days have illuminated the necessity of providing our students with cultural exchanges and fluency in a modern language, as essential components of fulfilling our mission: to prepare our students for the life that is their future.
Our trip began in Beijing, an ancient city that we found to be stunning in design to accommodate its 21,000,000+ citizens. That a city of this size and population can run so efficiently is a tribute to China's expertise in civil engineering and urban planning. We hit the ground running on our first morning, having reviewed our cultural cues on the flight overseas; we felt ready for our first day's appointments, which included visits to two recruiting agencies, a visit to Tianjin Yaohua School, two train rides, a formal lunch, a formal dinner (complete with a musical performance), and a 15-minute stop to visit the China House Museum. No time for jet lag on this trip!
We quickly put into practice all we had read about the art of business communication in China. With Jennifer as our mentor, we could hardly go wrong. We learned that the first thing that happens in a meeting is the exchange of business cards. The business card is handed to you with two hands, and yours is received with two hands. The protocol is to read the card thoroughly after receiving it (not an easy task when it is written in Chinese) and then to place it on the table in front of you where it stays throughout the meeting. Gift giving is another ritual which we find to be quite enjoyable. We brought some of our finest St. Martin's bookstore attire to offer to our new friends. But, the best of the gift giving was when we were each presented with a freeze-dried roasted duck! We can't wait to see how we do passing those through customs.
While in Beijing we also visited the Forbidden City and The Great Wall. Both were unforgettable, enriching experiences. Another amusing phenomenon has been the attention that we receive by being American. Those who know her will understand when I say that if you close one eye and squint, Michelle is a dead ringer for Julia Roberts. And my blond hair is a complete stand out in this country. As we toured the grounds of the Forbidden City, we were both stopped and asked to have our picture taken with complete strangers. Once we agreed, we were suddenly swarmed by others joining in the photo, jostling for position next to the movie star and the blond. The food is very different, but we have been adventuresome and are finding it enjoyable. We are doing quite well with chopsticks. I even tried eating chicken feet. (Not a fan!)
The more we see of China, the more we understand why it is so important to gain insight into the perspective and history of others, and how acquiring an international perspective will prepare our students to move more seamlessly and thoughtfully in an increasingly borderless world.
We couldn't ask for a more productive, enlightening, and harmonious experience. It has been a wonderful trip, with more adventures to come!