Chinese Group Brings Cultural Exchange to Rural New York

By: Erica Clapp, Short Term Programs Coordinator

Just one year ago Nancy Pierce was introduced to the world of cultural exchange by becoming a host parent for a French exchange student.  She enjoyed the experience so much that she wanted to find another way she could bring the world to her community in Spencer, New York.  Nancy became a certified Local Coordinator with CCI Greenheart and had a busy first year hosting one student herself, supervising seven students, and coordinating a 2 week program for a group of 9 Chinese students.

At first, Pierce was hesitant about bringing this group to her rural community in Spencer, New York, a town 200 miles away from New York City with a population just over 3,000 people.  “I knew it would be a great opportunity for so many, so I agreed to it,” said Pierce.

The group of 9 students arrived from China on July 14th accompanied by a Chinese group leader.  They spent two weeks living with American host families in the community, experiencing life and culture in the USA while improving their English language skills.  While on the program, the students were able to see Niagara Falls, enjoy the thrills of an amusement park, hike the gorge, and also toured Ithaca College and Cornell University.

The group also completed a Greenheart Project where the students helped set up and distribute food at the local food pantry.  Pierce said “the leaders of the food pantry were thrilled with their help and pleased with their behavior.  The public was just as impressed with their sincerity and helpfulness.”

Pierce said the summer program had a positive impact on the small, rural town.  The group and community had an especially touching moment at the farewell breakfast where students shared their stories of their own personal experiences over the two week program.  Pierce said the gathering “was very emotional for many adults and students and the connection that was created in only two weeks was incredible.  Without a doubt, a lifetime of new friendships was created.”