Cleveland is my lifelong home, and just like anything that is too familiar, I’ve taken my hometown for granted on occasion. But, in October, I was given the opportunity to coordinate a visit to St. Edward High School for 10 students and three educators from Hefei, China. Their visit gave me a new perspective on what I love about Northeast Ohio.
The trip to Cleveland was the first visit to the United States for all 13 of our Chinese visitors. The purpose of their visit was to gain a better understanding of the life of a typical American teenager, including school, extracurricular activities, social, and family life by spending 10 days with students from St. Edward High School and St. Joseph Academy.
When you see Northeast Ohio through the eyes of those who have never experienced it before, what is typically taken for granted become highlights of our region. Ten days is not a long time to be able to immerse a group into the culture of a city, and like most travelers, they wanted to make sure to experience some of the major highlights or tourist attractions.
As expected, they loved the West Side Market, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cedar Point, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Those are all places I have visited many times, but to see it through their eyes as a facilitator, dramatically changed my experience.
During those visits, it was the little things that stood out most. I had never known how relaxing it was to have a cup of coffee in the art museum’s beautiful atrium; I was reminded that there’s no better place to people-watch than on the balcony overlooking the West Side Market; and, in the age of digital music, I had forgotten how fun it is to browse through racks of old CDs in music stores like the one in the lobby of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. While those were three insignificant experiences in the time spent with our guests, for me it opened my eyes to what I am too familiar with to enjoy.
It was familiar things that I began to take the most pride in. The beauty of a drive through the cultural gardens on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.; the seemingly limitless view from the observation deck atop the Terminal Tower; the Midwestern hospitality of Clevelanders and their undying passion for sports. Those were the things I was most excited to share with visitors of a vastly different culture from thousands of miles away.
MLK Blvd: Cleveland Area History
Most striking was watching the excitement of our visitors when they saw for the first time something I have seen hundreds of times. To them, Northeast Ohio was the most exciting place in the world for those 10 days.
It was a great reminder that our region offers so much to be treasured, and those small, everyday experiences that we take for granted is what makes us proud to be Clevelanders!
KC McKenna is Vice President of Marketing & Admission at his alma mater, St. Edward High School.