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Northern Illinois University’s College of Education hosts high school students from Miaoli county in Taiwan for an American education and culture immersion

In early September, Northern Illinois University and DeKalb High School, along with other high schools in St. Charles, and the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, welcomed nine high school students in grades 11 and 12 from Miaoli County in western Taiwan to take part in a program called Open Imagination. The visiting students spend three weeks immersed in American-style education and culture, and stay with DeKalb High School families.

“Open Imagination was really a team effort,” said Terry Borg, director of the College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs which helped plan the visit. “The Education Bureau of Miaoli came to us with this grand idea about opening their students’ minds to a different way of learning.”

According to Borg, the Taiwanese students are not the only ones to benefit from the experience. “Open Imagination is just as important to our host students” he said. “This has provided them one-on-one personal experiences with their peers from halfway around the world. It makes the world a little smaller.”

Similar comments were made by Tamra Ropeter, principal of DeKalb High School: “Open Imagination is extremely important to our students. ….. getting to know other cultures, what other countries’ educational systems are like – it’s invaluable.”

The students’ experiences weren’t confined to the classroom. The students visited the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum, and they toured Wheaton’s Cantigny Park, home to the Robert R. McCormick Museum and another museum that documents the history of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Chicago and its Education Division helped with arranging the Open Imagination visit. On September 12 they feted the Taiwanese students and their DeKalb hosts to a reception and a day of Chinese and American culture. It included an introduction to Chicago, a lunch, and an evening performance called Energetic New Taiwan given by a group of Youth Ambassadors from Taiwan at SGI-USA Chicago Culture Center.

This is the second group of students from Taiwan’s Miaoli County to visit NIU and DeKalb in the past two years as part of the Open Imagination program. Borg expressed hopes that this year’s Open Imagination Project can be expanded to include a reciprocal visit from DeKalb High School students next spring.