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Hudson -- A group of 10 Hudson High School students went on the trip of a lifetime in June when they visited the cities of Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin and Shanghai in China.
The students were in the Honors Chinese and Chinese 3 classes of Jessica Chang, who teaches the Chinese language at the high school. Five adults joined Chang on the trip.
"From the standpoint of an educator having the opportunity to take a group of students to be fully immersed within a language and a culture was truly invaluable -- both for myself and for the students," Chang said. "Learning a language in a classroom is a great experience, but being placed in its country of origin and forcing yourself to listen, speak, read and feel a language goes much beyond that.
"Seeing the students not only take this chance to visit the beautiful country of China, but also to use the skills they have been taught in Chinese class was very rewarding for me as their teacher," she said. "I could tell that they were curious, interested and really wanted to gain something from this experience. And I think they all did."
The 12-day trip lasted from June 6-20, and the flights were about 19 hours long.
Chang said the school district did not pay for the trip, and each student that participated paid about $4,000.
The group stayed in hotels and traveled with Education First educational tours, which arranged bus transportation and tour guides. Chang said a tour director accompanied them on the whole trip, while in the four cities they visited, there was a local guide to arrange trips and explain the history of local attractions.
Chang said she hoped the students gained an awareness of global perspectives and connections. She said the trip also aimed to: promote understanding, respect for different cultures, language learning and global citizenship; align with school curriculum to bring Chinese language, people, places and daily events to life; provide a setting to sharpen key 21st century skills -- critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration and global competence for the students; and develop interpersonal and leadership skills necessary to navigate new experiences with confidence and adaptability.
In Beijing, students experienced the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace, Taiji exercise, Beijing Zoo where they saw a panda, and a tea ceremony.
They rode bikes on the ancient city wall in Xi'an, where they also visited the ShanXi Provincial Historical Museum, Terracotta Warriors Museum, Big Wild Goose Pogoda and Muslim Food Street.
"The Terracotta Warriors site and Muslim Food Street were my favorites," Chang said.
In Guilin, they did the Moon Hill Climb, a walking tour of Xi Jie (West Street), and a tour of the village.
And in Shanghai, they visited the World Financial Center, the Bund, Yuyuan Garden, a silk museum, Zhujiajiao Village and Nanjing Road.
Chang said many of the meals were planned for the whole group to enjoy together in a family style setting.
"This is the traditional way that Chinese people eat meals," she said. "There was never a shortage of fresh, native vegetables, as well as meat, rice and noodles.
"A few of the most memorable meals were the handmade dumplings with juicy, soupy, pork chicken and shrimp fillings," she said. "The skin was just the right consistency -- a little pocket for the flavorful filling. Another was the 'Chinese Hamburger' -- a specialty in the Shanxi Province, sold on the streets of Xi'An as well as within the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, which housed the Terracotta Army. It is made of chopped stewed pork, mixed with coriander and peppers, held inside a 'mo,' a kind of bread pocket cut in half, kind of a mix between a Chinese bun and pita bread."
Chang said she was proud of her students when they were able to use "the long-awaited and anticipated shopping skill of bargaining and haggling."
"I was so pleasantly surprised at their courage to talk back to the vendors, who were, in fact, trying to rip off the foreigners," she said. "It was very impressive. Some students were able to haggle prices from hundreds of Yuan down to the tens.
"At another location, we had an activity for the students to learn certain items on a menu at a specialty cold rice, flour, noodle shop," she said. "They lined up at a counter and went one by one, ordering only in Chinese and were able to select their entree and drink, and pay for the meal all by themselves. I was so proud."
Chang said climbing the Great Wall was an unforgettable experience.
"Many of the students climbed the stairs step by step, while others took a trolley up, and many of the students also rode toboggans down the side of the Wall," she said. "Afterward, they all said it was one of the most exciting parts of the trip," she said.
"They also loved to shop at the very culturally immersive street shops, talk to the vendors and show off their Chinese skills."