Students & Staff From MLK School Have A Memorable And Moving Visit To China

Principal Gerald Yung shares his experience

The M.L. King School’s fourth annual trip to the Jiangnan Experimental School in Hangzhou, China and the city of Shanghai, China, was a memorable and moving educational experience.

As an educator, it was exciting and enriching to spend a week observing and sharing with seventh and eighth grade students. Their hospitality, curiosity, and knowledge of our culture and country were truly remarkable. Our students also enjoyed sharing their similar interests—the NBA, popular musical groups, and “Harry Potter” movies—and comparing their differences —no siblings, no school dances permitted, independence. Our students lived in the dorms and exchanged stories of two different cultures. One of the more reoccurring stories from the Chinese students was that of an intense, singular, pressure to do well academically to gain admittance into prestigious high schools. Our students shared a similar pressure to academically stay on track, but one that competes with numerous distractions.

In the afternoons, students and teachers would accompany us on tours of popular tourist attractions. This included the beautiful West Lake, grand Temple of General Yue Fei, and the bustling Qinghefang Historical Street. In the evening, our hosts treated us to banquet dinners and we dined with host families. Our students were able to use their study of the Chinese Mandarin language throughout the trip and embraced new foods and customs. Our students also made new friends and reflected upon their experience through daily journal and workbook entries.

On a personal note, it was inspiring to visit the home country of my parents. My parents left the country many decades ago and I’ve always had one schedule conflict or another that precluded such a visit. As this was my first visit to China, it was great to reflect upon the life that my parents described and to immerse in the Chinese culture. I found China to be almost as exotic as familiar. In the midst of dozens of soup dumpling street carts, there were numerous American food chains. For instance, there was a Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds and Pizza Hut only a block away from where we were staying in Hangzhou. Recently built, architecturally progressive, skyscrapers towered over impoverished shanties. However, the one constant that existed was genuine warmth from the Chinese people to help and please despite any language and cultural barriers. I always had the feeling, which was reinforced throughout the week-long trip that I was safe and would be able to find help if needed, no matter what the situation.

The M.L. King China Trip was made possible entirely through private donations. It is an experience and luxury that afforded us a perspective on life that was educationally enriching and priceless. As I shared with the Jiangnan School on our last day, some of our students enjoyed their trip so much that they asked if they could continue to stay at the school for the year. No doubt, it isn’t always that one travels thousands of miles away to find such fit and educational stimulation as we experienced for those few days in April. Whether it was riding on a crowded high-speed train, bargaining with street vendors in a shopping street that was erected in ancient times (the Song Dynasty), or observing in a “standard” classroom of 48 attentive students and one teacher, the China trip expanded our perspective and truly enriched our lives.

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Trip to China
Uploaded: June 13, 2014
by: shiwen.pei

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