PHS Mandarin students experience China through cultural immersion

photo courtesy of David Rosenfeld

30 students enrolled in Mandarin II, III, IV, and AP classes traveled to Princeton’s sister city, Qingdao, China from November 2 to November 13. The trip is part of a biannual exchange program, designed by PHS mandarin teacher Shwu-Fen Lin, that aims to immerse PHS students in traditional Chinese culture.

This year, the 11-day trip was split into two different parts. In the first four days of the trip, PHS students attended classes at Qingdao #2 High School in Qingdao, Shandong, an Eastern province in China. Students stayed with their designated Chinese host families, located in various regions across the city. The Chinese host students have taken English as a subject in school, but many of their families are not as well versed in English. Therefore, the PHS students were obliged to speak Mandarin for the majority of the trip.

Priscilla Russel, the supervisor of the World Languages Department, travelled alongside the students and felt that the trip was successful in cementing the students’ knowledge of Mandarin.

“Our students had many opportunities to use their Mandarin and they all seemed to take advantage of the opportunities to do so. Our goal is for students to develop communicative competence and confidence in the language they are studying,” Ms. Russel reflected.

photo courtesy of David Rosenfeld

Because of their experience living with host families, students had the chance to see China from a new perspective, instead of seeing the nation as a tourist.

“They would go out and show us parts of the city that wouldn’t even be known to a school trip, so it was more of a local’s … point of view,” said Matt Heilbronn ’19.

The second portion of the trip focused on visiting different attractions and cities in China. This year, there was more of an emphasis on observing the Chinese language and culture through increased time in Xi’an, a city in central China.

Within Xi’an, PHS students visited the Hanyang Tomb, the burial place of ancient Chinese emperor, Emperor Jing. Other attractions included the famous Terracotta Warriors, a depiction of the army of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. In addition, the students spent time in the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist temple that was built during the Tang Dynasty, and Hanyang Tomb, the burial place of ancient Chinese emperor, Emperor Jing.

As a continuation to the sightseeing, the students also had the opportunity to spend their last days in Beijing, stopping to see the Forbidden City, where emperors lived during the time between the Ming and Qing dynasties. Parts of their visit included seeing the Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China.

One of the main objectives of the trip was for students to obtain a greater understanding of Chinese culture through learning more about Chinese communities and lifestyles, along with the structure of the Chinese educational system.

“[Students] saw Chinese culture and compared it to what they learned in the classroom, [in order for them to] reach a higher goal for their proficiency level and understanding [of Chinese culture],” said Lin.

Through this experience, students were able to learn more about Chinese culture through their interactions with locals.

“Xi’an was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Visiting Xi’an gave me the feeling of visiting a small town in a big city because the local people had so much appreciation for their culture and history,” said Leah Hirschman ’19.

Lin believes that the trip to China is more valuable than just an opportunity to see a new country and experience the culture.

“It is important for the students to build up a relationship with the Chinese students so that in the future, my students can be life learners,” said Lin. “Even when they graduate from PHS, they can still continue to have the relationships with these Chinese students.”

1 Response

  1. priscilla russel says:

    Thank you for this well-written and accurate article. We are very appreciative of the care taken in the writing of the article.

    Priscilla Russel

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