Windows to China

Students’ Study Abroad Experiences

By Yi Zheng

Summer is a time when students seek opportunities to connect their classroom learning to real-life experiences. In the summer of 2014, many students from Asia Society’s Confucius Classrooms Network traveled to China through various study abroad programs. They immersed themselves in Chinese culture, practiced their Chinese language skills, and explored ways of connecting their school-year studies to their experiences away from home.

Lisa He Wu, a junior at Central High School in Philadelphia, participated in the 2014 Hanban Chinese Bridge Summer Camp. This camp is an annual Chinese language and culture program that aims to enhance Sino–Foreign youth exchanges, and deepen students’ understanding of their personal experiences with Chinese language and culture. For Lisa, this was not just a trip that enabled her to connect more deeply with her own heritage, but also an opportunity to make friends with young adults from all around the United States. She reflects: “I feel as though I have become a different person. . . . Learning from all the people around me changed my perspectives toward other countries.” Read more about Lisa’s experience in her own words.


Students from the Peninsula School District in Washington State flew across the globe and visited their partner school, Mudanjiang No.1 High School in Mudanjiang, China. A partnership exchange program is one of many ways to immerse students in real culture and develop friendships. As Heidi Steele, the Chinese language teacher at Gig Harbor High School, points out: “The purpose of the short summer exchange is to take the focus off of academics and run the program with a focus on culture and relationships.” Students learn valuable lessons about how to navigate a culture that seems different from their own and manage to make it a part of their lives. Students on this exchange program captured interesting facets of life they discovered in Mudanjiang and Beijing by writing postcards to themselves. Postcards from four students weave together a fabric of rich stories and experiences. Read them all!


Judy Fordjuoh, a junior at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Brooklyn, continues to study Chinese because she finds it “interesting to talk to people that we think are completely different from us – in another language.” In her study abroad experience as a 2014 Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) scholar, she spent six weeks in Beijing where she focused on language acquisition, cultural and community engagement, and career and leadership development. She discovered that the people of China and America have so much in common. Her journey to China also boosted her own confidence. Read more about Judy’s journey in her own words.