Hudson -- The Hudson High School students who traveled to China in June with a group headed by Jessica Chang, a Chinese language teacher at the high school, talked about what they learned and observed on their trip.
Sophomore Ethan Bird said he learned about Eastern civilization and the differences between the Western and Eastern worlds.
"The different cultures were very interesting," he said. "What I saw that impressed me the most was the Great Wall of China with its sheer massiveness and length. My favorite site was Yangshuo's West Street. It was very interesting and fun."
Sophomore Gabriella Elliott said going on the trip taught her to appreciate the things that citizens take for granted in the United States.
"In China you must drink only bottled water, and you have to be careful about where the fruit has been washed," she said. "In the United States I have become accustomed to Western style toilets but, over in China, most bathrooms are just holes in the ground that you squat over with no supplied toilet paper. You have to bring your own tissues to use. When we got back from the trip, I greatly appreciated being able to drink whatever water I wanted and to have nice, clean toilets everywhere."
Elliott said while everything in China was "very impressive," the Great Wall was "incredible."
"We got to take a ski lift up, walk around on top of it while enjoying the unbelievable scenery, and then took a toboggan ride down," she said. "You can look at pictures of the Great Wall, but there is nothing like experiencing it yourself."
Elliott said one of her other favorite places to visit was the West Street in the city of Yangshuo.
"We got to buy all sorts of knockoffs of products that we would otherwise have had to pay a lot of money for in the United States," she said. "The experience of haggling is very amusing, but you have to be serious and be willing to walk away to make sure you get the best deal as possible."
Sophomore Holly Pappano said learning a language is "fun, and it can most definitely be challenging in a classroom environment, but to be in a place where you're surrounded by people who only speak that language, you're naturally forced to expand your use and knowledge of that language."
Pappano said being a part of China's culture and using Chinese on a day-to-day basis "had such an immense impact on our ability to communicate."
"Not only that, but also the way people interact with each other in China is vastly different from how it is in America," she said. "It was a life-changing experience to be involved in it over the course of a mere two weeks."
Pappano said China is "an all-around beautifully ancient part of the earth, but one of the most impressive things about the country is how both the old and the new combine to create a setting nearly reminiscent of the past in both cities and rural towns."
"It was fascinating to me how you could be in the middle of a massive, crowded urban setting and still find obvious architecture and buildings that act as a window to the past," she said.
She said an example was Shanghai.
"It's China's largest city, bustling with technology -- we rode a Maglev from the airport to the city hub upon arrival -- and yet among all the modern technology, there are still rickshaws roaming the streets, pagoda-styled rooftops and even the Jade Buddha Temple, a valued historic site, nestled amidst the modern skyscrapers. Overall, I loved how China makes it feel like you're simultaneously in both the future and the past."
Pappano said they visited "the rural villages and rolling mountains of Guilin, all of which looked to be pulled out of a charming fairy tale."
"We walked along the monstrous expanse of the Great Wall on Beijing's outskirts," she said. "We stood 100 stories up at the top of the Shanghai Financial Center.
"Of all of the places we traveled, however, my favorite was probably Muslim Street in Xi'An," she said. "Muslim Street was a winding market road in the Muslim sector, thus the name, of the Shaanxi Province. Chinese vendors lined both sides of the narrow road selling local food you'd never find in America. All the noises, scents, crowds and colors made for a sensory overload.
"It was so fun interacting with the locals and the vendors when bargaining and purchasing goods," she said. "The atmosphere was just so immensely real and down to earth that I couldn't help but enjoy it. The entire trip was a surreal, amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat."