What started as a Skype session between high school classes on two different continents in 2013 has evolved into a trip to China for six Springfield High School students this summer.
District Chinese teacher Jing Zhao said she had been planning the two-week trip with the students and librarian Kelly Collinsworth for two years. Most of the group returned home last month.
“As a language teacher, I know my job is not just to teach the students about the language but also to help them understand the culture,” said Zhao via email while in China.
Her goal for the students’ first trip was to “use the language as a tool to understand the people.”
Collinsworth said the students enjoyed the trip, which took 14 hours of flying time to arrive in China.
“There has been some culture shock, but that is part of the travel experience,” Collinsworth said. “I’ve really enjoyed sharing this trip with the students; they are trying new foods and experiencing how to interact with Chinese people, especially being sensitive to their cultural norms.”
The group tried to pack all the sights and experiences into their time abroad as possible, including a visit to the Great Wall of China and an excursion to see the Terracotta Warriors statues.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said sophomore Arianna Reynolds, one of the students on the trip. “The food here is amazing. Every new place we go, there are different choices to chose from.”
“I’ve never really been outside of Springfield for extended periods of time, so to say I’m experiencing culture shock is an understatement,” added Jace Moore, a junior. “Everything is so large and foreign, yet fascinating and beautiful.”
The Springfield Chinese class did a Skype session with a class in Liuzhou, China, in 2013. That ended up being the seed for the trip.
“They ended up doing that twice,” said Scott Marshall, district spokesman. “Then two of the teachers from that class (in China) were here in Cincinnati, and decided to take a trip up to Springfield. They did a tour of the high school and learned a little more about the Chinese language class here.”
“They were very professional and the high school teachers and I wish we could have had more time to communicate and learn from each other,” said Zhao of the visit.
The two classes didn’t get a chance to meet during this trip.
Springfield language students have also taken trips to Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and Greece in the past. The China travelers paid for their own trips.
Zhao is hoping to take more students on trips to China in the future.
“We’re real big on foreign languages and broadening culture,” Marshall said. “This is such a great opportunity for the students. Here you are taking a language and learning about the culture, and then having opportunity to immerse yourself in that culture.”