A few weeks ago, we received an exchange student from Korea. I am endlessly proud of my students for their patience, kindness, and hospitality in welcoming this student into our classroom and making him feel a part of our school. While being an exchange student must be a tremendous learning experience for the student, it has also been great for my class, a majority of whom live on farms and rarely get to visit any city, let alone any of the larger cities in our area such as Milwaukee, Minneapolis, or Green Bay.
I spoke to this student the other day about a recent trip he and the other kids from his program will be making to Chicago. I talked about places he would visit and things he could do, and naturally this led to looking up places that served Chicago-style hot dogs and Chicago-style pizza. I am a hot dog nut and have worked Chi-Dogs into my diet (4 Weight Watchers Points! Even with fries, that’s less than a Snickers bar!). Naturally, this led to Google Earth.
Google Earth, the program, is a godsend for our isolated little school. With the ability to show images of places anywhere in the world, and find street views of most of those places, it lets our kids travel the world without leaving the room. After showing him around Navy Pier and the Loop, someone asked our new student, “Where do you live?”
After a few minutes, we saw the sprawling metropolis of Seoul. Our student showed us the blocks and blocks of high rise apartment buildings, pointed out good places to eat, his school, and the nearby headquarters of Hyundai, Samsung, and Kia. In a town like ours where there is not a single three-story building, and for kids like mine who have never seen a skyscraper, let alone been surrounded by them, this was mind-blowing.
Our guy has opened up a little bit more, he is respected a little bit more, and our class was a little humbled by a program that puts the whole world in your classroom.