As the large coach bus filled with smiling faces rolled towards the entrance of the school, everyone knew that the moment had finally come.
At approximately 10:30 a.m., on Sunday, November 10, a group of 11 students from the Hwa Chong Institution in Singapore arrived at Staples High School, beginning a two-week long visit. While there was some nervousness in the air, as this is the first year for the program, there was a great deal of excitement for both the host families and in their Singaporean guests.
“I’m very excited. It’s my first time coming to America, and my first time coming out of Asia,” Wan Jie Lim, a 16-year-old Hua Chong student said.
Almost immediately, Lim said, he noticed significant differences between his home and Westport.
“In Singapore, streets are always buzzing with people,” Lim said. Although he mentioned his concern for possible culture shock, he and the others are looking forward to their visit.
Maria Zachery, World Language Department Chair, shared her excitement as well. Zachery is coordinating the trip for Westport.
“We’ve been talking in Westport a lot about twenty-first century skills and how to become a globally competitive school,” Zachery said. “Getting to know the Singapore students and their culture will bring a lot to Staples.”
Two teachers from Hua Chong accompanied the students to America. Steven Karplus, a history teacher, said he is looking forward to the students experiencing firsthand the reality of American culture. Many of the students have come to the states with preconceptions and stereotypes of American students.
“I want them to find the difference between the U.S. and Singaporean academics. I’m looking forward to them having a culturally enriching experience,” Karplus said.