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Cultural event enriches US students before trip

By RENA LI in Los Angeles | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-29 07:24

Students from the United States display crafts they made during an open day event held by the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles on Saturday. During the event, they gained a better understanding of Chinese culture through a series of activities. [RENA LI/CHINA DAILY]

Before a trip to China next month, students from the United States had a chance to experience Chinese culture from trying out calligraphy to making dumplings, applying Peking Opera makeup and learning about the Year of the Dragon during an open day event at the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles on Saturday.

They are part of 50,000 young people from the US who will take part in exchange and study programs in China over the next five years.

About 150 students from the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, or VNCLC, and the International Studies Learning Center, or ISLC, attended the "Perceiving China" event at the consulate.

When VNCLC high school senior Michael Sosa introduced his calligraphy piece for the Chinese character for dragon to the audience, he expressed his passion for the art, saying it is something he would love to pursue further.

"I always loved this style of writing; it's truly an art form and incredibly beautiful," Sosa told China Daily. "These experiences have refined me as a person, and it's truly exciting to share them with others, because then more people can become aware of these beautiful cultural experiences and traditions."

Sosa is one of 20 students who will be traveling to China next month as part of VNCLC's international student exchange programs.

"I am very excited for this upcoming trip," Sosa said. "I'm looking forward to learning a lot about this important experience, as we don't really know much about it in American school systems."

Steve Holle, board president of VNCLC, said the school has developed a long-standing partnership with China. Before the pandemic, it regularly sent students to live with Chinese families and attend local schools, while also hosting Chinese students at Vaughn and arranging for them to live with US families.

The exchange trip between VNCLC and its sister school in China will see the US students spend five days visiting Beijing and three days in Shanghai before returning home on March 22.

"This is the first trip we've initiated for the exchange program after the pandemic, and we're looking forward to hosting the Chinese children when they can come back to America," Holle said.

Mutual understanding

He said he believes the international exchange can broaden the students' vision and improve mutual understanding between the US and China.

"Our American students can learn so much about China's history, art and everything; this is the way of education that you're learning from both China and the US," he said.

Yvonne Chan, founding principal of VNCLC, said that from 2012 till before the pandemic, groups of Chinese students from Wuhan, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing visited the center for cultural exchanges and to experience schooling in the US. They were warmly welcomed by their US peers.

"As an international public school ourselves, this exchange promises to be enriching. We eagerly anticipate Chinese students' visit here in August. Through this collaboration, we learn from each other, bridging the American dream with the China dream and aspiring to create the best global vision," she said.

Chinese Consul General in LA Guo Shaochun encouraged the students to experience riding on high-speed trains, savor Chinese cuisine, immerse themselves in Chinese culture and make friends with Chinese youngsters.

"I encourage you to listen to China with your own ears, observe China with your own eyes and measure China with your own footsteps," Guo said. "When you come back, please share your China stories with your friends."

The consul general's wife, Wang Wei, introduced Spring Festival customs and facts about the Year of the Dragon in a mini class.

At the open day, the students were amazed by the richness of Chinese culture.

Samantha Chan, a student at VNCLC, shared how amazing and important it is to recognize the differences among people from different countries.

"It's very exciting to learn about new cultures and diversify our perspectives. I'm hoping to learn a lot about food, culture, the way people behave and how it contrasts with here in America," she told China Daily. "I would definitely love to share my experiences when I go to China and when I come back."

ISLC principal Marcos Hernandez emphasized the significance of US students acquiring knowledge of Chinese culture.

In 2012, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden were vice-presidents of their respective countries, they visited the ISLC and engaged in a warm discussion with students and teachers. ISLC students performed the dragon dance for the two leaders and presented them T-shirts with the message "Fostering goodwill between America and China".

"This visit has become a cherished memory symbolizing the friendship between the two countries," Hernandez said.


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