A camp that gives a genuine experience

Updated: 2013-07-26 01:16

By Jin Zhu and Zhao Xinying (China Daily)

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Italian Michela Orsi is visiting China thanks to a youth camp that focuses on giving young people an authentic taste of China.

Held by the Beijing Foreign Studies University, the summer camp, called "You and Me, in Beijing", provides an international platform combining education with entertainment.

A camp that gives a genuine experience
Wei Lai (right), 11, teaches 15-year-old Michela Orsi from Italy how to use a Chinese calligraphy brush on Sunday in Beijing. Orsi is one of 117 middle school students from 10 countries participating in the "You and Me, in Beijing" BFSU Summer Camp 2013. The camp, organized by Beijing Foreign Studies University and the Confucius Institute Headquarters, aims to create the cultural exchanges between China and other countries. [Zou Hong/China Daily]

It has attracted young people from 17 cities in 14 countries over the past five years.

"It is my first time traveling abroad and also my first time with a Chinese family," Orsi said. "Everything here is different from Italy."

The 15-year-old from Maglie in Italy studied Chinese for a year before her 10-day trip.

As a part of the trip, Orsi was invited to stay with a Chinese family in Beijing on Sunday.

"Compared with studying Chinese in foreign countries, overseas students can learn a great deal when they spend time with Chinese people," said Sun Yan, a teacher accompanying the Italian students on the program.

Sun has been working for the Confucius Institute at the University of Rome for three years. "The institute organizes Italian students to visit China every summer," she said.

"Not every family can afford to give their children financial support to travel abroad. But for a foreign student studying Chinese it would be regrettable if they could not visit China," she said.

The program also includes visiting places of interest, art appreciation and folk customs.

About 200 students from 10 countries who are registered students at Confucius Institutes or students of primary and secondary school courses of Confucius Institutes attended the summer camp this year.

The institutes cooperate closely with foreign universities and schools.

In a language class on Monday, Dimitra Kaneva said the sentence "my father is a policeman" in Chinese.

Before coming to Beijing for the summer camp, although she had been studying Chinese for two years and mastered more than 600 characters, Dimitra, a 15-year-old from Bulgaria, said she could not speak Chinese well.

Now she understands the tones better.

Feng Ruoyu, one of the language teachers in the summer camp, said they designed the syllabus in accordance with the activities that students participated in during the camp.

"For example, teachers got the overseas students to use Chinese words, phrases and sentences about prices and bargaining before they went shopping," she said.

Feng said they focused more on vocabulary rather than grammar.

"By practicing in real situation, the students learn faster," she said.

Dimitra said she had been interested in China and Chinese culture since she was a little girl.

She said she had been fascinated by Chinese buildings and had been looking forward to seeing the Forbidden City ever since she saw The Last Emperor.

"The Forbidden City is great," she said after a visit there. "Just like what I saw in the movie."

Dimitra also studied calligraphy and tai chi, a kind of traditional Chinese shadow boxing.

"Last year, I displayed my calligraphy and I took part in a tai chi competition in my school," she said.

Roger Jaurena, a 17-year-old from Barcelona, Spain, introduced a castanvela, a Spanish musical instrument to his Chinese friends.

"People in southern Spain often use it in flamenco, a traditional Spanish dance," he said.

Jaurena had been interested in China and itsculture for a long time. He is studying Chinese at the Confucius Institute in Barcelona.

Chen Hanqi, a 10-year-old primary school student in Beijing said this is the first time he played with people from other countries.

"Foreigners are hospitable, open-minded and full of energy, which I should learn from," he said.

Contact the writers at jinzhu@chinadaily.com.cn and zhaoxinying@chinadaily.com.cn