China Opens Doors to Lee Academy Students

By Bethany Beverly

Lee Academy continues a long-established tradition of opening doors to the world through a new partnership launched with the Lishui Foreign Language Experimental School (LFLES) in Lishui, China, a large city near Shanghai.  This recent partnership designed by Lee Academy (LA) Headmaster Gus LeBlanc and Lishui principal Mr. Zhou  not only opens doors at Lee Academy to students from Lishui, but also delivers local students from Lee, Maine, right to China’s eastern shore, at the Lishui Foreign Language Experimental School in the Zhejiang province.

IMG_0923Located in beautiful, rural eastern Maine, Lee Academy continues to embody 170 years of quality education to students of the residents of Lee and surrounding towns, as well as a diverse population of international students.  Included in Lee Academy’s new partnership with LFLES are programs which will enable LFLES students to attend school in Lishui for three years utilizing Lee Academy curriculum, and subsequently travel to Lee to complete their senior year and graduate with a Lee Academy diploma.  Another unique part of this relationship involves a group of twelve LA juniors and seniors, set to travel to China this summer, assisting with an English as a Second Language (ESL) summer camp for Chinese students in Lishui.

However, the highlight of this new partnership for this school year has been an environmental and cultural exchange which transported three LFLES students and English teacher Weili “Ivy” Zhou to Lee Academy in November, and three Lee Academy students and Physics and Environmental Science teacher Susan Linscott to China in January.  In November, Linscott and LA Environmental Science students had the honor of introducing Lishui visitors to the American ecosystem, as unique to Maine.   Said Linscott, “As rapid growth and new development continue to boom in China, an undercurrent for the need for care of the environment has also grown significantly.”  In this vein, Linscott and her students traveled with their visitors to key areas showcasing environmental management in eastern Maine.  Some of these areas included the Downeast Lakes Land Trust and Grand Lake Stream Fish Hatchery; Department of Marine Resources in Boothbay Harbor; and Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Calais.  LA senior Mallory Maxwell recalls the unique experience of introducing the visitors to Maine’s woods, birds, and fish hatcheries.  Maxwell remarked that one visitor was especially “enthralled with the clean water.  She loved how pretty and clear the water is and just wanted to swim in it!”

In exchange, Linscott, Maxwell, and two other LA students appreciated the honor of visiting China in January, as LFLES staff and students provided a IMG_0939cultural and educational introduction to China.  Remarkable to Maxwell was the generous, gracious, hospitable nature of their Chinese hosts, who seemed both eager to present cultural and educational customs in China and curious to learn about American culture.  Included in this visit were numerous traditional Chinese meals, tours of Chinese museums, temples, parks, and landmarks, including an ancient gold mine, and a tour of the city of Shanghai.  Educational experiences involved visits to LFLES classes.  Junior Amber Wilcoxson recollects elementary children excitedly running up to her, practicing their English as they spoke – “Hi, what is your name?”  She said, “It was wonderful to see them shine as they practiced their English.  Then, they would happily giggle and run away.”   Time in LFLES classes included student presentations about Chinese culture and numerous questions about United States culture.  LFLES students seemed interested to learn about extracurricular activities at American schools, especially team sports, as this concept is new in China.  Senior Mallory Maxwell was struck by the dedication to education at LFLES.  She noted that school days are long, running until 8:40 each evening for high school students.  A normal Chinese school week is six days, Sunday – Friday.  Maxwell befriended and has remained in contact with “Annie,” a student she met at Lishui.  She remarked that “Annie’s e-mails often speak of her studies.  The most important thing to her seems to be her education.”

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This cultural exchange has left quite a mark on the lives of these LA students.   Junior Amber Wilcoxson was quick to speak, “I hope to pursue a career in education or psychology.  I enjoyed helping Chinese students practice their English.  I plan to return to Lishui this summer with other LA students to work at the ESL camp.”  Senior Abigail Glidden affirmed, “I have loved my time at Lee Academy.  Lee Academy has been like its own little community, with so many rich cultures represented.  I am so blessed that this has been my high school experience.  The cultural exchange in Lishui has been an opportunity for me personally to understand more of what life is like for international students at Lee Academy.  I feel like I have walked in their shoes and now I can relate more to my friends here at school.”

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These are just a couple of the many reasons why Lee Academy remains in its strong tradition of opening doors to the world.  It is because of this very tradition that the doors of the world are now being opened to Lee Academy students.

A version of this article was recently published at the Bangor Daily News.