Tia Jonsson ’16 describes the unexpected honor of speaking at Shiyan High School’s graduation ceremony:
All of the Deerfield students came to China excited and curious about the Chinese language, the culture, and the people. What we didn’t expect is how excited and curious a lot of Chinese people would be about us.
Today our group was invited to our host school’s graduation and Mrs. Kelly asked me to speak at it. I didn’t really have any idea of what to say given that I had only been at the school for 24 hours. I talked about how lucky Deerfield was to have a connection to the school, and then I offered my congratulations to all the students. Even though I didn’t say anything profound or include much Chinese, the audience was gracious and energetic. They just seemed excited to have new faces on campus and were happy that we were trying to communicate with them in their language. After just one simple greeting to the students, parents, and teachers, I received a loud burst of applause.
Everyone we’ve met so far has reciprocated our level of interest and excitement. It has not only made for a warm welcome, but an even more enriching experience. At the graduation today, even though what I said was no match for the speakers who came before and after, the audience appreciated that I was trying and was excited to hear what I had to say.