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Friendships Across the Globe With Taiwan High School

Friendships Across the Globe With Taiwan High School

Mt. Vernon High School (MVHS) students eagerly awaited outside with a sign to welcome students from Taipei Municipal Neihu Senior High School. The cultural exchange enabled the Taiwan and MVHS students to learn what education is like in another country, improve their second language, and make new friends. The MVHS students in Mandarin classes were excited to welcome the 18 students and two administrators visiting the last week of April. 


Uniquely, two pairs of students met their pen pal face-to-face for the first time! These four students had previously communicated via mail, video presentation, and a live stream video, as part of the pen pal program. The pen pal letters provide hands-on learning for students at MVHS who are learning Mandarin and also for the students in Taiwan who are learning English. 


 Yi-Fan Lin, MVHS Mandarin Teacher, shared, “ This pen pal project reminds students why they learn a new language -- to use that language to communicate with people from other parts of the world and make new friends! Both the American students and Taiwanese students are always so excited to write the pen pal letters and even more excited when they finally get the letters back. This week, two students had the opportunity to meet their pen pals in person and they said it was like a dream. They couldn't believe it happened!” 

The week started with a welcome ceremony and a gift exchange as is customary in Taiwan. The visiting students, as well as MVHS students, learned both the similarities and differences in education in their non-native country. Each Taiwan student was paired with an MVHS student to attend classes and experience high school classes in America. 

Dr. Scott Shipley, MVCSC Director of Curriculum, shared, “Our last partnership or exchange with Neihu High School was five years ago, pre-pandemic. Revamping this exchange has been a priority that has been delayed due to the pandemic. Yi-Fan Lin, our Mandarin teacher, was classmates with one of the teachers from Neihu High School and has developed a friendship that has allowed the MVHS partnership to continue with Neihu High School. The exchange with Neihu Senior High School allows our students to widen their cultural and worldwide experience. Yi-Fan Lin has planned a trip for MVHS students to visit Taiwan in May-June of 2025. Our students will have the opportunity to visit tourist locations in Taiwan and visit Neihu High School, including some of the students who are here visiting MVHS.” 


Regan Britt, a junior at MVHS, was one of the pen pals. She shared, “It has been surreal to meet my pen pal after writing to him. We actually talked about how we never thought we’d get to see each other in person. I’m so glad I got to meet him because it is easier to learn more about each other in person. It’s only been two days since the students have been here and I feel like I will definitely have more of the Taiwan students to keep in contact with. They are so fun to be around and it’s truly a great experience. It was so fun and it will definitely be one of my favorite memories from high school.”

Chi-Kung Tseng, a current freshman at Neihu Senior High School, shared, “It was crazy meeting my pen pal (Reagan) face-to-face. I thought the trip gave us a different perspective of the world, and allowed us to express ourselves to foreigners. We should cherish this rare opportunity. I think it’s not that hard to talk with foreigners, just be confident.”

The students from Taiwan were excited for the week and to experience an American high school. They expressed their gratitude for their warm welcome and the activities they were able to experience during their short visit. The students attended classes, watched a baseball game and MVHS’s spring musical, ‘Grease,’ visited Conner Prarie, participated in a Chinese character scavenger hunt in the Saraga International Grocery Store, and more. The students developed friendships and created lasting memories while learning a culture on the other side of the world. 


Ms. Lin shared that the Taiwanese and MVHS students are already looking forward to seeing their new friends next summer on the MVHS trip to Taiwan. Friendships across the globe and a new respect for different cultures were achieved in this priceless exchange and experience.