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American Language & Culture Academy
Trine University associate director of admission Jon Walmer and his daughter, Makenzie, in front hosted Chinese exchange students during Trine's Summer American Language and Culture Academy this month.
Chinese students enjoy American homestay experiences
ANGOLA, Ind. – For Jon and Amy Walmer, hosting Chinese exchange students meant more than they could have imagined for their eight-year-old daughter, Makenzie.
The Walmers, along with 15 other area families, welcomed Chinese high school students for an overnight homestay experience during Trine University’s Summer American Language and Culture Academy this month. Families connected with 28 visiting Chinese students on July 15 at Pokagon State Park, where students enjoyed a cookout and pontoon ride on Lake James. At the end of the afternoon host families took Chinese guests to their homes to give them a taste of American culture.
The Walmers thought their visitors – 18-year-old Daisy and 15-year-old Shirley – would get the best taste of American culture at Grandma and Grandpa’s Jimmerson Lake home, where Amy’s mother, Karen Norris, made pork chops and rice for dinner, and her father, Phil, took the young women fishing.
Upon arrival, Makenzie wanted to show her guests “how to feed the fish.” She took some old bread to the end of the pier and threw it in the water, where fish immediately swam to grab a bite. Their Chinese guests were impressed and wanted to learn how to fish. Phil Norris gave them some fishing poles, and they were addicted – hook, line and sinker.
“They caught fish after fish,” Jon Walmer said. “They had a blast. We ended up throwing the fish back and taking a pontoon ride around the lake.”
After the pontoon ride, they ate their first American home-cooked meal and then headed to the Walmer’s home in rural Angola. The girls stayed up until 1 a.m., playing games and making crafts such as felt animals and bracelets with Makenzie.
“It was an unbelievable experience for Makenzie,” Jon Walmer said. “It was cool to see her build a relationship, even though there were language barriers. I was surprised at how sad she was when they left.”
He added that their guests were also fascinated by their five-month-old son, Jaxon. In China, most families have only one child, so seeing siblings and a baby was a unique experience for the girls.
The family noted the generosity and respect of their Chinese guests. The young women left the guest bedroom and bathroom just as they found it and offered to help. While they were outlet shopping, Daisy and Shirley also insisted on buying Makenzie an outfit.
“And there was no arguing with them,” Walmer said. “They were very giving, and I think they felt like they needed to do something since we were hosting them. I was really blown away by their generosity.”
After a pancake breakfast, the Walmers bid farewell to their guests. To say they were touched by the experience is an understatement. They did not realize just how much they would receive when they opened their home to guests from another part of the world.
“Makenzie told me that she almost cried when they left,” Walmer said. “After we dropped the girls off at the university, my wife immediately went and got the pictures developed for their daughter.”
To share your news, contact Trine University communication specialist Lindsay Winslow Brown at email@example.com.