Courtesy photos Susan Chen and other students visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding during a trip to China last month as part of a national exchange program.
Chen, a Homestead High School graduate, gives a thumbs-up along the Great Wall of China. Chen was one of 12 students selected for the two-week trip.
Monday, August 13, 2018 1:00 am
Trip offers grad new view on China
CHARLOTTE STEFANSKI | The Journal Gazette
A few months after graduating from Homestead High School, Susan Chen was on her way to China.
A Presidential Scholar and valedictorian, Chen had the opportunity to apply for a two-week trip, conducted by the nonprofit National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, in July.
“Since my parents are Chinese, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to go back to a country that I haven't been to since I was around 4 or 5 years old,” Chen said.
Only 12 students were chosen by the Student Leaders Exchange Program, and Chen was one.
Jonathan Lowet, senior director of the committee, said the trips can have a life-changing effect on the students.
“What I've found amazing about these trips, is it may change what they study in college, it may change where they take future service trips or future vacation travels, and it may change their careers,” Lowet said. “For all the kids, it changes the way they look at the world.”
Before leaving for China, the students attended a three-day orientation in San Francisco to learn about modern China and the issues it faces.
The trip lasted two weeks, with the group traveling to Beijing, Guiyang and Chengdu. They stayed with host families living in those areas.
Students were able to get a mixture of culture by visiting sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, trying different cuisine, and watching different forms of entertainment, including kung-fu movies and opera.
They also visited a school in Beijing, where students could ask them what it is like to live in America.
For Chen, the most interesting part was being able to stay with her host family. She was able to communicate with them, since her parents speak Chinese.
“When you go to a country as a tourist, it's easy enough to see all of the tourist traps and attractions that you can normally see,” Chen said. “This trip was valuable because we got to actually live in these homes and talk to these parents, and really see how people go through their daily lives there.”
Another big focus of Chen's trip was relations between the United States and China, which the committee wanted students to form a better understanding of.
“The United States-China relationship will be critical to meeting worldwide challenges in the 21st century,” National Committee President Stephen Orlins said. “We want to ensure that these future leaders will be well informed when making decisions that shape the future of our country and the world.”
Students visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, where questions about the trade war and U.S. relations came up.
The group went to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, where Chen said consuls discussed civil rights issues in China and how the dependent relationship between the two countries has created a difficult situation.
“It's really difficult to bargain with them (the Chinese government), because now that they have these bargaining chips of their own, it's difficult to convince them to protect these liberties that the consulates are really trying to vouch for,” Chen said.
As for her own solutions, Chen said when dealing with a foreign country, the United States needs to consider different values, and to keep in mind that other countries have their own self-interest at hand.
“You really have to offer solutions that will benefit them, instead of just thinking of it in a way where you're just presenting the most clear solution for us,” Chen said.
This fall, Chen is heading to Yale University to study economics. From there, she hopes to go into business or law.
While some of her classmates were inspired to become involved with China as ambassadors or other government positions, Chen doesn't see herself doing that. However, she does see the country having an impact in her life.
“It really showed that in this increasingly globalized world, we need to keep up with what's going on in other countries, because whatever happens will affect us here,” Chen said. “It's not something I can keep out of my mind when it can just reach across the ocean into our lives.”
• Warsaw Community Schools begins the academic year Tuesday. Back-to-school events are as follows: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. today at all elementary schools; 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Lakeview Middle School; 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 22 at Edgewood Middle School; and 3:10 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at Warsaw Community High School.
• East Allen County Schools is offering free admission at all opening-night high school football games as a gesture of thanks to the community. Food vendors and giveaways are planned. Games start at 7 p.m. Friday at Leo; 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at Woodlan; 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at New Haven; and 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at Heritage. Doors open an hour before kickoff.
• The next Allen County Retired Educators meeting is 11 a.m. Aug. 28 at Metea County Park, 8401 Union Chapel Road. Send reservations to Mary Jo Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Ivy Tech Community College's Fort Wayne campus, 3701 Dean Drive, and Warsaw site, 2545 Silveus Crossing, will offer extended office hours for students in preparation for the fall semester, which starts Aug. 20. Fort Wayne hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20-24. Warsaw hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20-23; and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 24. Student service offices include financial aid, express enrollment center, admissions, registrar, assessment center and academic advising center. Prospective students can meet with enrollment specialists, call 1-888-489-5463 from 7 to 1 a.m. daily, or apply at www.ivytech.edu/ApplyNow.
• Collin Cahill represented Bishop Dwenger High School at the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He finished in the Top 30 in the Informative Category with a speech on the Rubik's Cube, ending his speech career at Dwenger as a three-time national qualifier.
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