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Home > Resources for Educators > K-12 Resources > Chinese Bridge > 2009

"Chinese Bridge" Summer Camp for High School Students - Summer 2009

Braving fears of the H1N1 flu virus and regular challenges of international travel, seven South High School students along with their instructor, Mr. Dingman Yu, took part in the Chinese Bridge Summer Camp. 

Mr. Yu's Report

Mr. Dingman Yu with his studentsAs a teacher of Chinese for many years for the Minneapolis Public School District, I have long realized the value of international traveling as a part of education and its positive impacts on students of world languages. So when we became aware of Hanban’s Chinese Bridge Summer Camp this spring, we promptly jumped on this opportunity. Eight students were able to turn in their applications by the deadline. The Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota acted as the coordinating agency for Hanban from the start and was instrumental to the timely handling and processing of the paperwork. Even though Hanban had insisted that they would prefer applicants with minimum exposure to Chinese language instruction, all of these students were accepted regardless of their Chinese-learning background and previous experience in China (3 of the students had travelled to China in the previous year).

The delegation from our school (seven students and one teacher) departed for China on July 12. We arrived in Beijing on July 15 after having spent two days in Shanghai. Between that day and July 31—when we left Beijing for Shanghai—we were participants of this year’s Chinese Bridge Summer Camp joined by 1,200 other high school students and chaperones from America and Britain. Hanban paid for all summer-camp-related expenses incurred during this period, including hotels, meals, sightseeing, and in some cases the rebooking fees for international flights when a group of participants became quarantined due to swine flu infections.

We spent the first four days of the camp in the Foreign Language School, BFSU, located in the northwestern suburb of this gigantic city. During the days we climbed the Great Wall, visited the Forbidden City, admired the pandas in the Beijing Zoo, and went shopping in the famous Silk Street. In the evenings the students chose to attend various cultural and language classes ranging from calligraphy, Chinese chess, classic poetry appreciation, and Kungfu. Or they could choose to play sports games in the gym, frolic in the gardens, check e-mails in the computer lab, or simply jog around the campus which was enclosed with 8-feet-high iron fences. Students were put in air-conditioned dorm rooms with two bunk beds. The bathrooms were shared on each floor. All meals (except when on field trips to tourist attractions) were served on campus in the multi-level dining hall. The buffet-style meals, while not spectacular nor irresistibly delicious, were clean and plentiful. Hanban then divided all participating delegations into a dozen of groups and dispatched them to hosting schools in different provinces. The destinations included Shanghai, Yunan, Chongqing, Shandong, Henan, Hubei, Zhejiang, and Jilin. For some unknown reason, Hanban seemed to enjoy matching visiting school delegations with hosting schools with similar geographic traits. So along with other groups from the northern tundra, we were flown to Jilin City of Jilin Province, some 800 miles to the northeast of Beijing.

Our hosting school is called #1 High School of Jilin with a student population of over 5,000. This is considered the best high school in the region and the talented student volunteers (who helped us in many ways) served to solidify such a reputation with their enthusiasm on top of their proficient communication skills in English. We were placed into a decent hotel near the city center, as this would enable our students to visit the local markets and food stands with ease. The school chartered tourist buses for us to commute to the school campus about 8 miles away. Each morning the students had three classes to attend with the afternoon hours mostly devoted to hands-on activities, which included paper-cuts, making dumplings, and making Chinese knots. Our students found these activities very interesting. The Chinese language class was focused on basic conversational skills which would fit the needs of beginners of Chinese very well. While the teachers were all very nice and approachable, students who had had Chinese before may find it a little boring. This portion of the camp lasted 12 days (July 19-30), long enough for the students to bond well with their peers from the hosting school.

The Chinese Bridge Summer Camp is a precious opportunity for students who are currently studying Chinese or considering taking Chinese to get to know China on a first-hand basis. It will serve to strengthen learning and make it easy and entertaining. What better place do we have to take the lessons of Chinese history while we wander in the Forbidden City and similar historic sites? What are the more efficient ways to learn China’s geography than visiting different regions on the trip? The students cannot get a whole picture of China’s booming economy without a visit to the mall by the Bird Nest and to a rural market in Jilin. A conversation to negotiate prices or talk about the weather is infinitely more life-like than those simulated ones taking place in the classroom. Visiting China widens our horizon of knowledge. It has taught our students lessons in the diversity of life, tolerance, and genuine friendship. Best of all, it has enabled us to know each other better, to know our own country better, and to set the bar of learning Chinese much higher. For all these, we remain infinitely thankful to Hanban officials, students and teachers from Jilin #1 High School in general, and the warm-hearted staff at the Confucius Institute in particular. It was your collective efforts and hard work that had everything possible.