By Showjean Wu, Chinese Faculty
St. Mark’s recognizes that a global education is a critical component of a 21st century education, so this past June we launched our first trip to China to offer our students the invaluable opportunity to enrich themselves in China’s rich culture and language. For two weeks, three St. Mark’s students visited Beijing, China with me. V Formers Brittany Bing and Jasmine Randle, and IV Former Taylor John enjoyed a fascinating and informative stay in China’s capital, one of the most populous cities in the world.
For the first week, the three St. Markers lodged with host families in Beijing. Chinese host families treated our students to the best Peking restaurants and taught them how to bargain at the markets. Students had the opportunity to celebrate the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival in June. In what is considered to be a major national holiday, students spent some quality bonding time with their host families in areas such as public parks, malls, and arenas. The families taught the students the most important values in Chinese culture. They learned everything from importance of respecting elders to always finishing the food on one’s plate. There was much emphasis placed on learning about cultural sensitivity throughout the stay. Overall, the students benefitted greatly from the opportunity to explore Beijing without the accompaniment of other Americans. All the host families did an exceptional job at welcoming our students into their homes and into their communities. The students remarked about how ecstatic they were to expand their taste palette while eating the best quality food along the way. They immediately recognized large differences between Chinese food in mainland China, as opposed to Americanized Chinese food served at home. For example, there are no fortune cookies or desserts in many authentic Chinese restaurants. Also, soup always comes as the last dish during a meal.
During the second week, Brittany, Jasmine, and Taylor boarded at the Beijing Experimental High School, a sister school to St. Mark’s. The Experimental School is attached to Beijing Normal University and is one of the top three high schools in the Chinese capital. Located on the edge of Tiananmen Square, it attracts students from the families of many government officials and from the financial sector. The three St. Markers and I were welcomed by Mr. Meng Xuejun, Director of the International Office of the Beijing Experimental High School. As boarders at the Experimental School, the American visitors had the chance to interact with Chinese students and make new friends. During this trip, our students took a variety of classes, including Mandarin, Robotics, Chinese Culture, Handworks, and Calligraphy. They even took several field trips to different monuments, including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Temple of Heaven around Beijing.
The St. Mark’s contingent also met with alumna Alice Hung ’86. The founder and Managing Director of Universal Technology, a leading distributor of industrial equipment and laboratory instruments for mainland China and Hong Kong, Ms. Hung was recently inducted into the St. Mark’s Cloister of Distinguished Alumni. She treated our group to a delicious meal featuring the famous Peking duck. During the meal, she encouraged us to become good global citizens and to always strive to expand our horizons.
It was great to see our American travelers speak Chinese with the local people whenever they had a chance. Most importantly, they were fully immersed in a unique culture much different than what they are used to.
Showjean Wu teaches Chinese in the Modern Language Department. She brings extensive experience teaching Chinese at every level of curriculum. She earned her M.A. in Bilingual and Bicultural Studies at University of Connecticut.