A short stay with a lasting influence

Updated: 2013-07-15 07:12

By Yu Ran in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Short-term study tours have become popular among Chinese parents who want their children to gain a deeper understanding of different cultures.

It took just a matter of minutes for Yang Min, from Taizhou, Zhejiang province, to decide whether she should allow her 14-year-old daughter to join a summer camp in Canada in 2012.

"I wanted Xie Huan to get away from home and experience different aspects of life in other countries, which would not only benefit her by broadening her knowledge, but also help her make more friends," said Yang, who saw the camp as a great chance for her shy daughter to become more confident and independent and teach her how to work as part of a team.

At least, that was what Yang imagined when she paid 32,000 yuan ($5,213), excluding visa fees, for the 20-day program, which consisted of one week of classes at a school in Vancouver, followed by tours of Vancouver and neighboring cities for the rest of the trip.

However, when Xie Huan returned home, Yang noticed a number of changes she hadn't expected. "The positive aspect was that she became more talkative and outgoing, but she also started to dislike the way education is conducted in China," she said.

The girl complained to her teacher about the amount of homework she was given, and shared her memories of the summer camp with her classmates every day, almost obsessively.

She then began urging her parents to send her to a high school in Canada, because she believed the education system offered more freedom and a greater number of opportunities for students in terms of study and leisure activities.

"I didn't expect my daughter to look forward to studying and living abroad, because we had never thought of sending her overseas permanently," said Yang.

However, some children who attend summer camps regard the experience as preparation for long-term study overseas.

After attending a 20-day summer program at her dream school - Vassar College, a select residential coeducational establishment in Poughkeepsie, New York - in 2010, Xu Hanzi, from Changzhou, Jiangsu province, decided to apply to study at Vassar and other US universities US.

"I really liked the atmosphere in the summer camp, where the teachers encouraged us to express our own opinions and work creatively on practical projects," said 16-year-old Xu.

The program, which cost 30,000 yuan, allowed her to live and take lessons at Vassar five days a week for a month, while city tours were arranged during the weekends. Xu said the camp helped her acclimatize to college life and become familiar with local people and the US lifestyle.

"The tour improved my spoken English and helped me to make friends with foreign kids who have interests similar to mine," she said.

Since the 2010 trip, Xu has devoted her time to preparing for the TOFEL exam, a widely respected English language test, and she has decided to study mathematics as her university major.

"My parents were quite pleased about sending me on the summer camp in 2010 because they believe that spending more time overseas will provide a better future for me," said Xu.

(China Daily USA 07/15/2013 page8)