DC students raise money for dream trip to China

Updated: 2013-03-11 11:19

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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DC students raise money for dream trip to China

Runners take the road in the Rock Creek Park in Washington DC on Saturday morning to raise funds for a group of eight students at the Washington Latin Public Charter School, who plan a trip to China in late March. The students, from families with financial strains, have all studied Chinese for years. Sun Chenbei / China Daily

Saturday morning was chilly but sunny in Washington's tranquil Rock Creek Park, where few people would have associated a 5-kilometer race with China until several teenagers introduced themselves in Mandarin before assembled students, teachers and parents.

The race was a fund raiser for eight students at Washington Latin Public Charter School who are planning a 10-day trip to China during their upcoming spring break, having studied the country's main language for years.

Through that class, the students have become fascinated with China's culture and history. But long-distance travel is expensive.

For Brandi Clark, a high-school junior at Washington Latin, this would be her first trip outside the United States. She and her parents were excited about the trip, but she admits to being nervous about the flying time required.

Brandi signed up for Mandarin class three years ago.

"I didn't know our school had a Chinese class until I got to high school. I am pretty excited," the 17-year-old said.

"The culture and music are really interesting, both the traditional and also the pop music in China," said Brandi, who describes herself as a musician and a singer.

The trip planned by the eight teenagers goes beyond traditional sightseeing. They will be exposed as much as possible to the daily experiences of ordinary Chinese.

After a tour of Beijing, the students will venture off the beaten path by taking a train to Changsha, in central China's Hunan province, where they will stay on a school campus, visit food markets and hospitals, have a Hunan cooking lesson, volunteer at a high school and an orphanage, and engage in other activities to help them understand the lives of local people, said Christina Stouder, who teaches Chinese at Washington Latin and is the trip organizer.

This will be the first time since its founding in 2006 that the District of Columbia school, which aims to prepare students for college, has sent students to China.

The school bills itself as providing "a classical education for the modern world", which Stouder said includes giving students a foundation for developing into global citizens through extensive study of languages, including Mandarin, French and Arabic.

"US-China relations are more important than ever as economic ties deepen between our two countries," she said. "It's vital that we nurture more young people who have a solid understanding of and connection to China.

"While students gain proficiency in Mandarin through our language classes, they must experience the language and culture in the group if they are to gain a nuanced understanding of China," said Stouder, who lived in China for four years, during which she taught children of migrant workers in a rural Hunan province village.

She said that while efforts have been made to contain costs, each student will be required to pay $2,800 for the trip - no small amount, and too much for some families to bear.

Stouder hopes people will donate to help make the students' dream a reality.

"Each contribution helps our students realize a lifetime opportunity and promotes great intercultural understanding and global awareness," she said.

Adults who participated in the 5km run each paid $20 in registration fees, while students paid $10. A total of $3,000 was raised from the Saturday event, said Stouder, adding that $380 of that was spent to cover the cost of using the park space and police service.

Muneerah Abdusshahid, a Washington Latin senior who has studied Chinese for six years, believes the trip will be a good experience. She is especially excited about the rural village where she and her classmates are to meet local residents.

"Miss Stouder has a lot of connections in Changsha," Muneerah said.

Asked if he's ready for Hunan cuisine, junior Amal Riley said: "I like spicy food."