Exchange Students Arrive from China

After a long drought of exchange students, Stratford is hosting two upper schoolers from abroad for the second consecutive year.

Pan Qi and Wentao Wu traveled to the United States from separate areas of China, arriving in Macon just before the beginning of the school year.  Pan enrolled as a 10th grader, while Wentao is taking classes as a junior.

Upper School Principal Ms. Margaret Brogdon said she hopes that hosting exchange students from around the world will help increase students’ global awareness.

“We really do believe that China is going to be a major world player,…and we would love for our students to have more access to information about and better understanding of Chinese culture and, as best we can, Chinese language,” said Brogdon, who also initiated a pilot Mandarin Chinese language course in the upper school last year in partnership with the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College.

Both Pan and Wentao are staying locally with host families with Stratford ties.  Pan is living with a couple whose grandchildren attend the Academy, and Wentao is staying with Ms. Hollie Wangerin — the new World History and Geography teacher — whose children Joshua and Ellie also are enrolled in the upper school.

“I think he loves American culture so far — except for the food,” Wangerin said.

Wentao was more diplomatic in his assessment of American cuisine, calling the food “different.”

Both Pan and Wentao said they hope to finish their high school careers at Stratford.

“Lots of families in China are interested in sending their students to American high schools to do one or two or three years to finish and graduate from high school with an American diploma so they can apply to an American university and have a better chance of being admitted,” Brogdon said, adding that the length of Pan’s and Wentao’s stay is “all contingent on our finding host families for the second year.”

This is the second year in a row that Stratford has hosted foreign exchange students.  Last year’s student, Andrea Pitacco, arrived from Italy and graduated with the Class of 2014.

Brogdon said that student visas became more difficult to attain for foreign exchange students following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  Pitacco’s arrival, however, opened up the possibility for other students to spend a year or more on Stratford’s campus.