Shanghai Meets Staten Island as Chinese Students Visit the College

This summer, the CSI campus has been abuzz with students from prestigious elementary, middle, and high schools in and around Shanghai, China, who are here to learn English and art as part of the Continuing Education Summer Camp program. Seven groups of students, approximately 200 total, have been visiting the campus for three to ten days, mostly learning English or improving skills that they already have, with some focusing on the study of art.

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Commenting on her experience, so far, Shanghai Chuansha High School student Chen Chen said, “I like America very much so this is a chance for me to know more about it. Also, I have learned that the school system here is very different from those in China. I am from a senior high school and I had a chance to see how this College operates.”

This program, the first of its kind at CSI, was facilitated by College President Dr. Tomás D. Morales during his visit to China last January. Dr. Morales met with various principals and school officials in the Shanghai area to arrange for the visits. “International educational opportunities are a transformational experience for students, and I am very pleased that our friends from China have a chance to experience the world-class opportunities available at CSI and NYC this summer,” Morales commented.

According to Elaine Caputo-Ferrara, the program’s manager, the students attend classes in the morning, with the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students receiving instruction from certified instructors, including Education Department adjunct lecturer Janet Grillo and Amber Scordato and Gail Hernandez, who are both ESOL Instructors for the Office of Continuing Education’s Adult Learning Center.

Once the morning ends, however, every effort is made to give the students an opportunity to see Staten Island and New York City with shopping trips and visits to cultural landmarks and other points of interest, such as the CSI campus, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and even a walking tour of southern Manhattan, including Wall Street.

Evenings are spent having dinner and enjoying activities at the Hilton Garden Inn. The students are staying in rooms at the nearby Hampton Inn Staten Island.

One evening activity involved the tying of friendship knots, as one of the art-oriented groups spent time teaching this Chinese craft to students from CSI and other Staten Island schools, as well as three visiting students from France.

Another high point of the program was when some of the members of the first groups to visit were taking the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan and ran into a popular Hong Kong film star, providing lots of excitement for the students and proving that it is, indeed, a small world.

These events and many other once-in-a-lifetime experiences have been having a positive impact on the visiting students, as their exit evaluations sing the program’s praises. Some of the visitors are even blogging to friends and family back home about the wonderful time that they are having here.

“I feel that America is very big and beautiful and New York is very international, beautiful, and clean,” Qin Jihao, also from Shanghai Chuansha High School, noted. Ni Yingying, from the same school, added, “I think this is a chance to become familiar with New York. In the future if I want to go to America, I will live in New York. It’s a very modern and big city.”

This program would not be possible without the help of students from CSI and other Staten Island schools, who are serving as camp counselors and guides on trips.

The three students who acted as counselors, accompanying the students on trips and assisting with evening activities, shared their thoughts on participating. Joanna Grillo, a Staten Islander who attends Rider University, said, “The kids are really great. [I enjoy] teaching them American games and learning how they put their twist on them, and working on vocabulary. It’s really fun.”

Ho Lee, a CSI High School for International Studies grad, who is entering CSI in the fall, added, “It’s fun to meet new people and see people explore New York in a different way than we do because we’re so used to living here.”

Louis Ferrara, who also graduated from the CSI High School for International Studies and will be attending St. John’s University this fall, agreed that he also enjoyed seeing the students react to things in New York that he has already seen. In addition, he emphasized the cultural sharing aspect of the program, “It’s nice to talk to them and learn about how life is there and I get to tell them about how life is here.”

Dan Huang, a CSI Education major who is originally from China, is serving as translator during the program. She stated that “I think this program is wonderful. I learned a lot of things and I’ve made a lot of friends in this program.” She also reported that this experience has enhanced her communication skills, as she was able to work with students first-hand.

Although the program is winding down, with one group here this week and the final group expected next week, Continuing Education Summer Camp has touched the lives of not only the visiting students, but students from CSI and beyond.

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