China has taken on a new relevance for 20 middle school students, who in early April spent an action-packed week touring and meeting with their buddies at the World Foreign Language Middle School (WFLMS), Harker’s sister school in Shanghai.
The group, comprising six seventh graders and 14 eighth graders, visited many of China’s landmarks and historic sites. Originally based around the grade 8 computer science class’ global issues forum, the annual China trip last year expanded to incorporate the grade 7 historical component of learning about ancient China.
Grade 8 student Nikhil Dharmaraj said his favorite part of the trip was the cultural exchange. “My father has been to Shanghai many times, but after one week of staying there, I knew much more about it than him,” he said. “This trip was different from just traveling. I actually got the opportunity to immerse myself in China.”
Kevin Williamson, upper school dean of students, headed this year’s trip. Accompanying him were middle school faculty member chaperones Scott Kley Contini, assistant director of instructional technology; Margaret Huntley, math teacher; Andy Keller, history teacher; and Andrea Milius, who teaches world studies. Keller, who was already in China serving as an exchange teacher at WFLMS, joined the group in Beijing.
Upon their arrival in China, the students were warmly welcomed at the Pudong International Airport by their pals from WFLMS, Williamson recalled. From there, they hopped on a bus for the short drive into the city to meet their host families. Then, they experienced a full day of school, “WFLMS style,” he said.
The students participated in classes including traditional music, calligraphy, the art of mask-making, and learning how to add and subtract on an abacus. “A few of the boys joined a pick-up basketball game with some of the WFLMS students in the afternoon that many of us watched,” said Williamson.
The students’ time at WFLMS ended with a touching farewell party and dinner. Then the Harker contingent departed for the next phase of the trip: Beijing. Their first adventure in Beijing consisted of a rickshaw tour of the Hutong (ancient alleyways that once covered the city).
The tour of Beijing also included a moving visit to Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 protests and ensuing military action. From there the group headed to the Forbidden City, where they were guided through several of its 980 palatial buildings. Then, during a visit to Summer Palace, China’s largest imperial garden, the students were treated to a tai chi lesson by a local instructor.
Later, during a trip to the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, the group rode boats through the canal and enjoyed an afternoon of sightseeing. Many students said the bridges and canals reminded them of Venice. Come afternoon, they returned to Shanghai for dumplings followed by a show at the World Circus featuring Chinese acrobats.
Another highlight of the trip was a visit to the Great Wall of China. After taking a ski lift to the top of the mountain, the group entered the wall. Students took many photos of the renowned structure and were thrilled to enjoy a fun toboggan ride back down the mountain.
From their educational time at WFLMS to their many sightseeing adventures, the middle school trip to China left students and chaperones with plenty to reminisce on – and share with friends and family back home.
“I haven’t traveled with friends internationally a lot, so this trip was one to remember. I made bonds with both Harker and WFLMS students. These memories will last me a lifetime,” said Dharmaraj.