Oct. 19, 2018 --
Heights High junior Jonah May took his study of foreign language to another level this past June when he traveled to China with a program offered by Cleveland State University’s Confucius Institute. He and sixteen other area high schoolers spent two weeks in Chengdu and Beijing with the Chinese Bridge Summer Camp
, an annual “Chinese language and culture camp.”
The students stayed at universities in both cities, attended classes, and immersed themselves in cultural experiences. Jonah, who recently presented a slide show of his trip to Dr. Shu Hui Lin’s Chinese class at Heights, enjoyed everything from calligraphy classes to tea ceremonies to martial arts lessons. His group learned about art, architecture, history, culture, politics, food, geography and, of course, language.
“It was hard to be in an environment where everyone speaks a different language than you,” said Jonah, who started studying Mandarin Chinese in 7th grade at Roxboro Middle School and is currently one of a handful of Heights students enrolled in Chinese 4. “But we knew enough to get by.”
He visited multiple museums and landmarks – some more obscure like the statue of the Giant Buddha and some very well-known, like the Great Wall of China. Definitely a highlight of the trip, Jonah said the wonder of the world did not disappoint. “It was spectacular.” After climbing the steep wall for over an hour, “the view from the top was super mesmerizing.”
Another highlight was visiting Chengdu’s Panda Breeding Center in Sichuan province, known as the “land of the pandas.” Students also had the chance to ride a rickshaw as they toured Tiananmen Square in Beijing, site of the student-led Democracy Movement demonstrations of 1989.
Jonah appreciated the opportunity to meet young people from all over the world, especially at the Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing. “We talked with students from over fifty countries,” Jonah reports. “I was impressed with how well everyone spoke English.”
One of the biggest surprises of the trip was how crowded everything was. As the world’s most populated country, China has as many people per square mile as we would find in New York City’s Times Square. “There’s a different sense of personal space in China,” said Jonah. “Because it’s so crowded, people are just used to sitting, standing, and walking closer to one another than we do here.”
Jonah will long remember his experience in China and has his completion certificate tacked to his bedroom wall, above a map of China. Another fond memory comes from the calligraphy lessons the group took. The instructor complimented Jonah’s depiction of the character “May,” his last name, which translates into beautiful in Chinese. “He said it was may
,” said Jonah with pride.