When Angie Kim first entered Westmount School in February, she was fascinated by the walls.
“It was really colourful,” said the Grade 5 student about the artwork. “We don’t really have that in China.”
Kim is one of 15 students visiting the school from Suzhou Industrial Park, which, she proudly points out, is where the popular video-game console Wii is made.
In total, there are 43 exchange students from China attending Halifax elementary and junior high schools — something Halifax regional school board Supt. Carole Olsen said teaches metro students about another culture and generates revenue for the board.
The students are staying with house families for up to three and a half months, primarily to learn English. They’re also immersing themselves in East Coast culture, and sharing some of their own way of life.
Kim said classes at Westmount are more fun, especially because students get to work in groups and don’t have to wear uniforms.
Grade 5 student Amy Won said she likes the shorter school days, easier math classes and playing hockey and basketball.
For most, it’s their first experience living with a sibling because of China’s one-child policy.
Principal Louise Henman-Poirier, who was one of 14 school board employees who went to China in January, said the students and community embraced the exchange students right away.
“Two weeks after they were here I went to a basketball tournament on the weekend and they were all working and enjoying it, having fun and running the canteen,” she said.
The first big hurdle she said was making them go outside in the cold to play at recess and lunch hour.
“They thought they didn’t have to because they gave us presents,” she said about the gifts of delicate silk scarves and pearls the students brought.
The students go home July 3.