12 American student leaders to visit China

By Zhang Ruinan in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-07-05 10:05

Martin Altenburg from Fargo, North Dakota, is ready for some new experiences in China, particularly when it comes to the food.

"As a picky eater it'll be fun opening up my palate to the cuisine in China," he said.

Altenburg and 11 other high-achieving Americans who graduated from high school this year will go to China on July 12 for two weeks to study Chinese culture, history and society in Beijing, Guizhou and Sichuan.

The 12 were chosen by the National Committee on US-China Relations for the US-China Student Leaders Exchange (SLE), an annual initiative that sends nationally recognized recent American high school graduates to China.

"I'm excited about how much we will be immersing ourselves in the culture while staying in China," said Altenburg, who will attend Stanford University this fall.

12 American student leaders to visit China

"I'm particularity interested in China's classical and pop music," he said. "As a violinist, I would love to have an opportunity to play in an orchestra or chamber ensemble with Chinese counterparts during this trip."

While Altenburg is expecting to play music in China, Beau Bingham from Tulsa, Oklahoma, hopes to explore the intricacies of Chinese culture.

"I'm interested in Chinese history and regional differences," said Bingham, who will attend Dartmouth College this fall. "It will be very different from my culture and very eye-opening."

"These high school students are the next-generation leaders of our nation," said Jessica Bissett, senior program officer of the committee. "We want them to have a deeper understanding of China, which could help build trust and improve US-China relations in the long run."

The rapid growth of China's economy and improvement in technology innovation have attracted more and more American students visiting and studying in China. In 2015, China ranked fifth in the number of American students studying there, with approximately 13,000, according to the Institute of International Education.

"This year, we received about 40 applications," Bissett said. "And we see more and more American students show their interest in the program in recent years."

She said that all applicants are either US Presidential Scholars - 161 students from the top 2 percent of high school graduates across the nation - or Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalists, winners of the nation's most prestigious pre-college science competition.

"All our candidates are very competitive and talented," Bissett said, "so it made our selecting process very difficult."

This year, the 12 students in the program will attend Harvard, Columbia, Brown, MIT, Stanford and other top universities after returning from China.

Yihai Education Group, a subset of Yihai Group in Beijing, which operates in real estate, education and investment, has sponsored the program for four years.

"We believe that the program will help the brightest American students have a better understanding of China," said Linda Wang, the founder of Yihai Group, "through their observations and experiences when they stay with Chinese students and their families, not through textbook and Western media coverage.

(China Daily USA 07/05/2017 page2)

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