Central Kentucky high school students traveled to China this summer to experience classes and culture on the annual Confucius Institute High School Summer Trip to China.
Students began their journey in Shanghai, where they immersed themselves in Chinese language, calligraphy, and tai chi. “Having the chance to study at Shanghai University was a great honor and opportunity to learn from teachers who have spent their lives in China and the city of Shanghai” said student JT Hickey. “And walking around the Campus was an experience in itself because we got the chance to see Chinese students and professors studying and seeing their day to day lives. When you got out of class you had the chance to go to the cafeterias and socialize with the students.”
In addition to their time on the Shanghai University campus, students toured local gardens, took a cruise on the Huangpu River, attended Chinese Opera and acrobatic performances and visited important economic sites. For these students, the trip was not only an opportunity to learn about Chinese culture but also a chance to bond with the group.
“I will never in all my life forget this trip and the friends and memories I have made on it. I would go on this trip every year if possible. I can not think of an easier way to get to experience another culture so thoroughly. I got to visit so many places and learn so many new things” said Jodi Kirkner.
“It was fun getting to practice my Chinese in an environment where it was actually needed. I hope many students after me will get to have the same experience I did. This trip will always be one of the happiest memories of my high school and even life.”
Madison Cissell reflected on learning about Chinese culture and bonding with friends on the trip. “This summer has definitely been one of, if not the best, summers of my life. I will be eternally grateful for the UKCI for giving me the opportunity to spend two weeks in China. I have learned many things about myself, the different cultures, and how to truly experience new things while on this trip.” Cissel said “I have absolutely loved every part and every moment of this trip. I don't think it's hit me that it is now over and I can't spend every day seeing sights or laughing with the friends that I quickly made.”
After spending several days in Shanghai, students traveled to Huangzhou and the historic Suzhou Gardens. Wills Quinn said “It was stunning and calming; it was hard to believe.”
From there, students began the last leg of their tour by traveling to Beijing on a high-speed bullet train, which Nicholas Nightenhelser noted sped them toward their destination “at speeds of over 300 km/hr.”
In Beijing, students toured Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. They also learned about Chinese dynasties and important historic figures. Charlotte Carey enjoyed learning about famous Chinese women like the Empress Wu Zetian and the Dowager Empres Cixi and said “It was interesting to hear about these powerful women and the original “Dragon Lady” as told by their guide.
After climbing the Great Wall, Wyatt Hood said “I will never forget the great journey up the Great Wall of China. It was a very long climb up but well worth it. It is one of the Great Wonders of the World and it’s obvious why.”
Autumn Drury reflects on the trip, now that the students have returned. “I’m going to miss China and the people I became friends with on this trip. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to travel to my very first foreign country and I hope to get to travel to many more places around the world.”
Reflecting on the trip, Woodford Middle School teacher Tiffany Carson said “Thanks again for letting me attend as a chaperone! I'm still confounded by the hospitality of the Chinese and the richness of the culture we got to experience. I loved the structure of the trip because of the thoughtful juxtaposition between structured classes and the freedom to explore the cities we visited.”
Photos of the high school trip can be seen here along with photos from other summer trips to China sponsored by the University of Kentucky Confucius Institute.