Last year, on the Deerfield’s CSGC trip to China, I had the chance to visit schools in Beijing and Inner Mongolia. In Beijing, my classmates and I participated in Chinese classes, as well as cultural classes including art, dance, and more. This experience was very valuable to me because although I was not directly involved in a typical Chinese student’s academic schedule, I was able to live in the dorm with students of the school and understand a little better where my father’s family roots come from. In contrast to the academic rigor of the high school students in Beijing, I was also able to observe the struggles of a rural elementary school in Inner Mongolia. My classmates and I spent a day with the students, exchanging bits and pieces of our culture for theirs. I observed this experience to be not only a chance for those students to see foreigners and gain a larger perspective of the world, but a chance for me to realize how much of an influence students can have on one another. With the trip coming to a close, I was eager to brainstorm other ways to expand upon the experiences of that short day.
This summer, I had the chance to host a camp for Chinese middle schoolers looking to improve their English. This opportunity allowed me not only to travel to China and make an impact on students who share part of my heritage, but also to find a closer connection to my own family, as the camp was located at the middle school from which my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and father all graduated. In arranging the logistics of this camp, I partnered with the Yongkang branch of a local charity organization called Plant-A-Seed to ensure that everything would run smoothly. The organization helped recruit students to participate in the week-long experience. I decided to do the same, and brought along two of my classmates at Deerfield, Aya Takegami and Justin Tang, to help teach. I was excited for the chance to participate in this cultural exchange. Benefits were inevitable–with two world-acclaimed education systems, both groups of students would be able to engage in a merger of the two countries’ ideologies.
I want to thank the generosity of the Workman family, the CSGC, Plant-A-Seed, and many others for their contributions, both direct and indirect, to this camp. The money from the grant was used to purchase an engraved water bottle for each of the students to take home with them at the end of the camp. I anticipate that not only will this water bottle serve as a useful gift and encouragement to the students’ English studies, but also as something that may prompt their own classmates to look forward to participating next year. I hope that in the years to come, this camp can continue to make a difference in students’ lives.