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Chinese exchange students pay a visit to Port Orchard

Click here to see a slideshow of the exchange students’ visit with the South Kitsap Fire District.

Photos by Aaron Burkhalter

South Kitsap residents welcomed 15 students from China this month as part of an educational and cultural exchange program.

In the program, Cultural Homestay International, students live with local host families, tour Kitsap County and Washington state and spend their afternoons practicing their English.

But it’s more than simple language education. The students also learn about the subtle and no-so-subtle differences between two cultures.

Coming from a large city, Chongqing, students find Washington wide-open, with huge freeways.

“If you want to go somewhere (in China), it would take a long time,” Long Jun Lin observed.

And the cuisine is a little different, too. Many of the students were taken aback by American hamburgers cooked medium to rare. They were unaccustomed to undercooked food.

On Friday, they received a visit from the South Kitsap Fire District Lt. Doug Richards, along with Jesse Pingeon and Dan Eastlick, brought a fully loaded fire truck and showed the students the various tools used to put out fires or medically assist people in emergencies.

Students got the opportunity to try on the thick clothing firefighters wear before going into a burning building. With thick pants, jacket and a helmet, the students only wore the clothes for a minute in the hot weather Friday.

Mayor Kim Abel took the students on a tour of City Hall last week. In the coming weeks they will visit Olympia.

The students applied for the program. Most of them were encouraged by teachers to pursue an exchange program in preparation for college applications.

“It’s good for them to go to an exchange student program for college,” the students’ instructor Val Walden said.

Shi Meng Zhu, 15, joined for that reason.

“My teacher told me it’s a very interesting chance to improve and exercise myself,” she said.

And they’re getting a good running start on their college preparations. These students are just starting the ninth grade.

Next week, the students will visit the Microsoft campus in Redmond.

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