Westview Hills Teacher Participates in Westmont Park District Exchange Program
Do you know where in the world your sister city is? If you live in the Village of Westmont, one of them is Hsinchu County, Taiwan and in 2023 a long-running program started again for the first time since being disrupted by COVID-19. Over the summer, 24 students from Sheng-Li Junior High School traveled to the United States and got a taste of life in Illinois thanks to community members like Karen Moffett.
In the past, host families provided a place for students to stay, but when volunteers were hard to find, the students instead stayed at Benedictine University, but still got to spend time with families in the evenings. The visiting students participated in the Westmont Park District’s day camp program, did some sightseeing in Chicago, and spent time with community members like Karen and her family.
“We hosted four different groups of six students each for an evening, and it was so much fun,” said Karen. “We always fed them a nice American meal and they were able to play with our kids and dogs, and the kids were all really lovely. We didn’t speak the same language, but it was really more than language and so fun to spend time together.”
The kids got a great taste of American life with meals like lasagna, a taco bar, and chili, always with a vegetarian option as they got to unwind from their day with kids their age during their visits. They felt celebrated during their time here, even getting to enjoy their first meal in the community at the fire station with a variety of special guests!
Each group had their own personality, some being more rambunctious than others, but they all enjoyed connecting with Karen and her family and other members of the Maercker School District community. A student who had recently moved to the school district from Taiwan came over to visit with the students and helped translate. One group played a passionate game of Uno and watched a movie during a tornado warning, and another got to tour Westview Hills Middle School, play in the gym, and get a treat at McDonald’s.
“It was really fun and interesting meeting the exchange students,” said Karen’s seventh grade daughter Clare. “I think it’s cool to have friends on the other side of the world and it was nice to learn some things about them.”
The kids exchanged social media contact information and have been keeping in touch via likes and comments, continuing their friendship from across the world.
“It opened a new world to my kids and it was so fun to see my daughter’s Instagram and see pictures liked by children in Taiwan,” said Karen. “I would love to see my kids doing something like that and travel abroad and absorb a different culture, and this was such a great way to support the community and show off our school!”