Eleutian - The Bridge to Globalization


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Mar 2, 2013

Through Eleutian, exchange student comes to Cody, attends CHS

From China to Cody

Exchange Student - From China to Cody

During conversations with Cody High School exchange student Susan Hong, it can be hard to remember that her first language isn't English.

But when a warm conversation turns into slang banter she doesn't understand, she's quick to speak up.

"Every kitchen in America needs a lazy Susan," Hong recounts her host-mom stating once in reference to the popular rotating kitchen tray.

"I was so confused. I said, 'What do you mean? Are you saying I am a lazy Susan?'"

The 16-year-old student began taking English classes in elementary school in her home province of Shanxi, China, and says she enjoys competing in English talent competitions in her country.

Her love affair with English language and Western culture grew after she enrolled in live online English classes with Eleutian Technology headquartered in Cody.

Soon Hong was connecting daily with Eleutian teachers Stephany Anderson or Jill Grovenstein of Cody via online video chat.

Somewhere around her 300th session, Hong sprung an idea on Anderson: "I want to do an exchange. Can I go to your town?"

Anderson, who also is a history teacher at CHS, thought it was a great idea and set in motion the process for overseeing a year-long student exchange.

"I put out an email with parents that said there is a student interested in coming to Cody on an exchange," Anderson said. "And I can vouch for her."

While two families expressed interest in hosting Hong, she ultimately was placed with Dr. Allen (M.D.) and Virginia Gee of Cody and their four daughters.

"When I started exchanging emails with the Gees, I found many similarities with my own family," Hong said. "My host-mom Virginia does work on the computer like my dad, and Dr. Gee is a doctor while my mom is a nurse.

"They are both very open-minded and keep communication open like my parents."

"That's been good," Anderson added. "The exchange has gone much smoother than others I've seen."

Of course, the list of similarities is short and the list of differences is long.

"I mostly notice the differences," Hong said. "There aren't a lot of cowboys or buffalo in China. But those differences make the whole experience worth it.

"The Gees have four girls and I don't have any siblings," she added. "So now I am sharing with four other sisters and I get to have that kind of family environment. It's fun."

And at school – where the length of time she spends in class has been cut in half – the differences are definitely worth it.

"In China, I went to school for six days a week, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.," she said. "The classes here are much easier and there is more time to do activities you enjoy."

Since arriving in August, Hong has played tennis, acted in the fall school play, tried out for the spring musical, competed with the speech and debate team, and started a Model United Nations Club at CHS. She also plans to compete with the Mathletes this spring.

"And it's weird, they let me pick my own classes here," she added.

Those classes have included: American government, honors literature, chemistry, honors statistics, French 1, advanced composition and U.S. history 2.

"Most students take two core classes and two electives each semester," Anderson said. "Not Susan."

Adjusting to life in Cody has not been without challenges. Hong said it's hard when people look at her differently and that she doesn't have answers for every question about China.

But she's making friends and getting more comfortable with the community.

Outside of school, the Gees have helped give Hong a rounded picture of America and cowboy culture through family vacations and other outings.

She attended a Super Bowl party Feb. 3 and previously hit up many Cody attractions, from Heart Mountain to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center to the fashion show during Rendezvous Royale.

Hong says she is not "surprised" by Wyoming's culture. After years of study she knew what to expect.

"But the experience is always different," she said. "And I really wanted to know what it was like.

"When I got on the plane in Denver to come to Cody it was so small and scary," she said. "But there was a real cowboy on the plane talking about cowboy stuff and I thought, ‘Wow, I get to experience this real life he's talking about in Wyoming.'"

SOURCE Cody Enterprise