Author Archives: ksimison


This week’s reflection comes from Sofia GV,

The trip to China was something that you only experience once in a lifetime. I got to interact with people from Shenzhen and Hong Kong, which, even if they are cities in the same country, they are completely different, and that really gave me a lesson about diversity and cultural differences. I am a curious person who loves exploring, and this opportunity fulfilled my desires, I got to live their lives for a weekend when I stayed in my host family’s house with Naya. Florence, our host, took us around Shenzhen, we went to the “Window of The World”, which is a park that has a monument of each country and some attractions, we had a lot of fun, took pictures and drank coconut juice from the coconut itself. She also took us to an oil painting village, and we saw the Chinese art in its essence, it was beautiful! Everyone took pictures of us in Shenzhen because we were basically the only internationals in the whole city, we were the center of attention, and everyone in my host’s neighborhood wanted to meet us. The food was new and unfamiliar, it was definitely a challenge at first, but now I can use chopsticks better than anyone back home and I am much more open to trying new and exotic things.

The school and experience in Hong Kong was more like a touristy one, we did go to school but we mostly did activities based on exploring the city and its museums. I loved Hong Kong and I am glad that we visited it because it is such an exotic and international city, and it gave me another view point of China. Overall the whole trip was very enriching and we really became a close group.


This week’s reflections come from Lizzy M.

Our trip to Shenzhen and Hong Kong was something completely new to me because I had never traveled to Asia before this trip. It was truly an amazing experience. From biking on the coast of the city to making dumplings and learning calligraphy at SFLS I experienced Asian culture in a way I had never expected. The food was very different from our food in the US (as expected), but I never realized how different the menus would be! From eating the roots of lotus flowers to seeing an entire chicken (head included) put in front of us on the lazy susan amazed me.

My favorite part of the trip was going to Hong Kong. At DGS we were able to connect with our host students by spending classes with them and going out to lunch with our host student and their friends. A few Porter’s girls and I went to a Japanese restaurant with our host students that had the best chicken teriyaki. The highlight of the Hong Kong section of the trip was going to the ladies market because I have never bartered for trinkets before, so it was really interesting to shop in a way that I have never done before.

I will never forget this incredible trip because of all the new activities and foods I was able to try abroad.


This week’s reflection is from Olivia L.

The time that I felt most connected to Chinese culture was during my homestay because I was a part of the family rather than a member of the group from Miss Porter’s School.

… while I was in Shenzhen I went to a market with my host student, Wendy, and her mom. There was a constant buzz of noise and people were buying all kinds of foods I had never seen before. My host mom kept handing me food … and that is the only rule I broke in China: do not eat street food. By the end of my time there, I had multiple bags of unidentifiable food … and five bracelets. How I go the bracelets is my favorite part.

I knew before I came to China that I would come across street markets… , but since I do not know Chinese, … I knew I was not going to be able to bargain. Then I saw those bracelets. I knew they would be a perfect gift for a few of my friends at home, so I wanted to buy them. I asked Wendy if she could ask the man at the booth that if I bought five bracelets, I could have a discount. After she went back and forth with the man she reported to me that I would be saving 25 yuan. I handed the man my 100 yuan bill and he handed me back 20 yuan, which is not what we agreed on. He made a plea to Wendy and she shook her head and told him that he still owes us 5 more yuan. I shook my head too and we finally got the money.

This was a big deal because Wendy and I sometimes had difficulty communicating, but in this moment we were able to work together and accomplish something. I felt excited and proud of myself for being able to do that, but even more than that I felt like Wendy and I connected completely in that moment.


This week’s reflection comes from Catherine T.

One of my most meaningful days during our two week long trip to China was spent not with my host student or friends, but with my host mother.

The morning of the first day of my home stay, my host student had to attend a SAT prep class. While she was gone, I was left with nothing to do. I couldn’t communicate with her family, whose english knowledge did not reach farther than common greetings, and I certainly could not go out on my own. So, I resigned myself to reading in her bedroom while I waited for her return. However, I heard a knock on my door shortly after my host student’s departure. In surprise, I looked up to find that my host mother was standing in the doorway, with my shoes in her hand and a smile on her face. In confusion and curiosity, I quickly got up and walked over to her. She handed me my shoes and then pointed to the door. As she started putting on her own shoes, I realized that she was going somewhere and wanted me to come with her.

As we drove, she flipped through radio stations and smiled in delight whenever we would come across an English sounding one. Each time, she would turn to me and say “American!”. While more often than not it was country music(not exactly my favorite genre), I would still smile as she turned it up.

Soon we pulled into a parking garage, which soon revealed itself to be the lower level of a grocery store. As we rode the escalator upstairs I gazed in wonder at the floor to ceiling shelves of product and the magnitude of people. My host mother grabbed a cart and told me slowly, in her limited English, to get whatever I liked.

I was touched by her intent on making me feel welcome and comfortable while staying with her family as we wandered the aisles. She was incredibly attentive; when I hesitated to ask for things, she would notice immediately and grab the object of my attention and put it in the cart. She also grabbed some of her own favorites, such as Chinese Chestnuts, to share with me.

The next morning she prepared a breakfast with the foods we had bought together. We ate together as her daughter and husband slept. We spoke very little, but we sat together comfortably.

My experience with my host family was my favorite part of my trip, but the short time I spent with my host mother was the most special. The bond we formed, even with the language barrier, made me feel like I was spending time with my own mother. While I may never see her again, I will cherish the memories we made.


This week’s reflection  comes from Naya L.

Throughout my time in Shenzhen and Hong Kong I had an amazing time meeting new people, seeing new things, and immersing myself in a new culture. My favorite part of the whole trip was our home stay. Being able to see how a family lives was amazing, and I bonded quickly with my host student, Florence. The first night we had a typical  dinner and then walked around her neighborhood to make sure we did not get too full. Earlier in the day we had walked to a mall from Florence’s house and seen her neighborhood. One thing that stood out to me was the different socioeconomic statuses that were streets apart from one another. There would be one street with large mansion like houses and another with abandoned houses. The one thing in common was that all around there were dogs  in each street.

The next morning we had a traditional brunch which consisted of chicken feet, cow stomach, fried rice, dumplings, and vegetables. After we went to the Window to the World park which was an amusement part with attractions imitating famous locations around the world. There was even an underground skiing man made mountain in the park. We then walked to a mall and had some dessert. After we got our nails done and went to meet Florence’s friend for dinner in Shenzhen. We had duck, something that was famous there, and after we took a cab back to Florence’s house. The next day after sleeping in we went to a grocery store and got some Chinese snacks before going to an oil painting village. We then were taken to get our hail washed. A lot of the girls and women get their hair washed and dried, because they don’t like to wash it. We had one last dinner with the family and the housekeeper the last night, and took a lot of pictures with us and the whole family.

Getting to know Florence, her family, and her friends was an incredibly meaningful experience. I was able to make friends while experiencing something so new and different. I am so glad to have been able to meet such amazing people in both Shenzhen and Hong Kong.


Here’s the latest reflection from Kayley G.!

Shenzhen provided me with an experience unparalleled to anything I had lived before. I Experience new food, music cultures and attitudes to everyday life. The attitude in particular interested me the most. The streets of Shenzhen are buzzing bustling roads filled with people in their own little worlds. From an outside perspective, the people seem unresponsive, and to consumed with what they are doing and going to care about those around them. However, in Shenzhen, people draw a very clear line between stranger and friend. When passing in the streets, people tend not to make contact. No one wants to get in anyone’s way, and people tend to rush past each other. On the contrast, once you pass the door into their house they are some of the most welcoming and kind people you will ever meet. When I first stepped into my host student’s house, which lay near the center of the city, I was immediately welcomed with tea, presents and lots of food. Her mother, one of the kindest people I have ever met, would encourage me to eat everything I could and was constantly topping up my plates. When we arrived back at the Shenzhen foreign language school, my host student Laura made sure I had everything I could ever need. During the school day we learnt lessons in their classrooms and ate lunch in their cafeteria, all the while checking in with out host students. Even after we left Shenzhen, many of us stayed in contact with our host students. In fact, I still message Laura to this day, and hope to see her again.



This week, our reflection comes from Lydia D.!

 Our trip to Shenzhen helped me to realize the true privilege of living in the United States. Living as a white, English-speaking, and upper middle-class citizen of a global superpower has given me innumerable advantages, most of which I was unaware of before traveling to China. One of these advantages is my access to a better education than the majority of the world’s population will ever receive.

Shenzhen Foreign Language School is one of the city’s most competitive schools, and all of our host students are part of its even more competitive English-speaking program, which only admits 100 out of the 1000 total students. The goal of the students in this special program is to attend college in the United States, which is an expectation that most Porter’s girls take for granted. However, the process of being accepted into an American college is much more difficult and strenuous for Chinese students than for American students. And, although the process is difficult, these students are committed to getting the best education possible, which they and their parents believe will be in America.

First, just like all applicants, international students have to take the SAT, and most of our host students attended Saturday classes to prepare, just like American students. But for the Chinese students, the SAT is in their second language, making the standardized test even more difficult for them than for the students whose first language is English. This would be like English-speaking students taking the SAT in Spanish or French. In addition to the SAT, Chinese students must take the TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language. This standardized test measures their fluency in English through listening, reading, speaking, and writing, and their scores will be sent to colleges along with their applications. Students will take classes outside of school and buy practice books to for prepare for this test, just like American students prepare for the SAT. The TOEFL is very similar to any AP Language exam, but Chinese students will take it as soon as 8th grade( for applying to high school in America).

Before getting to know my host student in Shenzhen, I had never considered the privilege of taking the SAT in my first language and not having colleges consider my fluency in English, let alone my nationality and the country that issued my passport, as part of my application. Now that I’ve gotten to know the intricacies of applying to an American school from a non-English-speaking country, I have so much more of an appreciation for international students and their incredible dedication to their education and for my privilege to have such easy access to higher level education in the United States.


This week’s reflection is from Betty B.

The one thing that stood out to me most about Chinese culture was how everything meant something. My host family was very traditional. For my first morning in China, they took me out to eat a traditional Cantonese breakfast. While we were eating, my host father examined my face. Through translations from my host student, Jean, I learned that every feature I had described a part of my personality; my face would dictate my past, present and future. According to him, I had intelligent eyes and an artistic nose.

Later on that weekend we went to a traditional Chinese doctor, who read my qi. In traditional Chinese culture and medicine, qi is a person’s life force: It is the energy that controls his or her being, made up of the more commonly known yin and yang (negative lunar energy and positive solar energy, respectively). It is essential to keep your qi balanced. If you are not balanced, you are either have too much water or too much fire. Although the doctor was impressed by my body’s strength and muscle build (which he accredited to America’s obsession with sports), my qi was slightly off balance. I had a little too much water in my system, which he decided was due to the fact that I, as an American, drink iced water rather than the typical hot water the Chinese drink (which is actually better for your system).

I was greatly intrigued by traditional medicine in China and how deeply many people believed in it. I got acupuncture and cupping done with Jean, neither of which resulted in a major difference I could feel, but it was a great experience nonetheless! In the US we don’t think so much about balancing the small things in our everyday lives, so it was refreshing to see how in my host family’s house, everything was laid out to follow feng shui. Every piece of furniture was placed in a particular place to maintain balance in the home. However fast-growing and highly-developing China is, tradition plays a crucial role in the heart of homes and of the people.


This week our refection comes from Drew S.

Our trip to China was truly amazing and one I will never forget. It was so interesting to see the different cultures of students in mainland China, as well as Hong Kong. I came to appreciate even more my life in the States and the privileges I have without even realizing it. My favorite part of the trip was our stay in Hong Kong and how one night we walked through the city to see the light show on the water. Besides the show being amazing and how peaceful it was out on the water, walking through the city was so different from anything I had ever experienced. It was just as busy as New York, but the environment and people were so unique. I really enjoyed Hong Kong and would love to go back there some day. Overall, I had an amazing time and I’m really glad I got to spend this time on this trip with the people who went.


This week our refection comes from Olivia G.

The Shenzhen Foreign Language school was so different than I expected it to be. To be honest, I went into China not thinking about how big of a culture shock it would be. Despite the drastic change in environment, culture, everyday life, etc, the people truly made the experience. I would not have enjoyed my InterMission as much if it weren’t for my host student. The connection we built with the girls was truly unique. We came from completely different parts of the world, yet we bonded immediately. I think that having host students made the immersion goal a reality. They showed us their favorite places to eat, hangout, site-see and so on. I think, however, that we were not the only ones to learn from this experience. Many of them had never traveled to the US before. They were to us as we were to them: New and exciting. As cliché as it may sound, the SFLS girls proved to us that no matter how different you may seem on the outside, we are all the same internally. They may have worked 10 times harder (making us look like complete slackers), but deep down they’re all silly star wars-obsessed geeks like us.