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Shanghai Students Visit White Plains Middle School

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- White Plains middle schoolers got to practice their Mandarin with Chinese students Thursday when the Shanghai East Experimental School made its inaugural visit to White Plains, solidifying a sister school relationship administrators hope lasts for years.

Highlands Principal Jonathan Brown, who studied Mandarin and visited China in college, said White Plains planned to send students to the Shanghai middle school next fall.

"The students are seeing a real-life, practical use for what they're learning in school. Often people learn languages, but never get to speak with native speakers. So hopefully this will propel them to continue their studies," Brown said of the White Plains seventh and eighth-graders in their second or third year of Mandarin studies and the Shanghai students learning English.

White Plains students, including Jenny Moss, said she was excited to talk in Mandarin with a native speaker for the first time.

"I want to ask if their lives are different," said Moss, a Highlands eighth-grader whose Chinese name is Mao Zhenni. "We're going to be in high school next year, but I'm excited for the seventh-graders to go visit Shanghai."

Xi Jiu Fang, the principal of Shanghai East Experimental School, said her students had many similar questions for their American counterparts.

"They want to learn how American kids study, how they live, what they do after school," she said.

Approximately 40 Eastview and Highlands seventh and eighth-graders gave custom printed T-shirts commemorating the visit to the 25 Shangai students. They received good luck ornaments in return, and discussed their favorite colors, extracurricular activities and shopping habits over lunch.

The principals also exchanged gifts, with Shanghai East Experimental School giving Highlands a "love crystal," student art made out of butterfly wings and a school flag. Brown gave Xi Jiu Fang a crystal clock marking the occasion and a specially made bag filled with chocolates.

The two middle schools shared a bit of their art and culture and Highlands' sixth-grade chorus sang two songs. Shanghai students also sang and a middle schooler performed a kung fu routine.

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