Young peo­ple get ‘ hard-won’ chance to share cul­tures

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

“Stay. Stay here, don’t go.” Max Bau­cus, the US am­bas­sador to China, en­cour­aged the Amer­i­can stu­dents to ex­plore deeper into China in a speech on July 27 at the US em­bassy in Bei­jing.

Sup­ported by the Rain­bow Bridge char­ity pro­gram, 31 Amer­i­can high school stu­dents came to Bei­jing for a cul­tural ex­change this sum­mer, while 20 Chi­nese col­lege stu­dents will visit the US to learn about its cul­ture on Aug 8.

“It’s such a great ex­pe­ri­ence that you have stud­ied here in China,” Bau­cus told the stu­dents. “Also for those who want to study in the United States, it is ter­rific.” He said dur­ing his speech that he learned much on his trip around the world when he was young, and he had found out that peo­ple in the world share many of the same con­cerns. He en­cour­aged the Amer­i­can stu­dents to “travel over­seas for a good pe­riod of time be­fore you de­cide what you want to do in life”.

Started in 2010, the Rain­bow Bridge pro­gram has spon­sored more than 150 ex­change vis­its for Chi­nese and Amer­i­can stu­dents to help them learn about each other’s cul­tures through com­mu­ni­ca­tion and daily liv­ing. Liu Hairong, honorary vice-chair­man of China Next Gen­er­a­tion Ed­u­ca­tion, the co-or­ga­nizer of the pro­gram, said the goal is to help young peo­ple from poor fam­i­lies who demon­strate high aca­demic achieve­ments to take part in for­eign cul­tural ex­changes.

“The op­por­tu­nity is few and hard-won. We se­lected 20 stu­dents from 20 top univer­si­ties all around China, which means only one stu­dent in one univer­sity can come,” said Chen Hao, a di­rec­tor at CNGE. “Most of them are stu­dents with eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties. With­out this pro­gram, it might be im­pos­si­ble for them to have a look abroad be­fore their grad­u­a­tion.”

The Amer­i­can stu­dents will stay in Bei­jing for five weeks, dur­ing which they will learn Chi­nese and visit scenic spots and his­toric sites like Tian’an­men Square, the Great Wall and the Palace Mu­seum. They will also be in­tro­duced to some tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture such as tai chi, an an­cient phi­los­o­phy, and guqin, a stringed in­stru­ment with a history of more than 3,000 years.

Jes­sica Florence of Los An­ge­les said she ap­plied to the pro­gram for a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two coun­tries. She felt lucky to ex­plore China and its many sur­prises. “It is a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

Shyon Small, a stu­dent from New York, re­ally likes Chi­nese cul­ture. He said he would take ev­ery­thing he learned here back to New York, and let his friends know that they need to see the world out­side their city and coun­try.

An­gel Ro­driguez, also of Los An­ge­les, said China is so dif­fer­ent from what they all thought it would be.

“It’s not dirty, not messy, not back­ward, but won­der­ful. We would never know what it’s like with­out com­ing here,” he said.

The Chi­nese scholars who will go to the US this month will be able to com­mu­ni­cate with of­fi­cials from the Depart­ment of State, Supreme Court, and Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to learn about the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal, eco­nom­i­cal, cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems in the US.

Liu said that this pro­gram not only links up with US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong Ed­u­ca­tion Ex­change Ini­tia­tive, but it is also in ac­cor­dance with the spirit of Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’ s pro­mo­tion of “build­ing a new model of ma­jor coun­try re­la­tions and con­tin­u­ing our co­op­er­a­tion across the Pa­cific Ocean”.

As or­ga­niz­ers of the Rain­bow Bridge pro­gram, CNGE and Amer­i­cans Pro­mot­ing Study Abroad hope that, through this pro­gram, Chi­nese and Amer­i­can young stu­dents can gather to deepen un­der­stand­ing, en­hance feel­ings, and con­sol­i­date the ba­sis of friend­ship be­tween the peo­ple of the two coun­tries.

“The cho­sen stu­dents are very priv­i­leged to be here when history is be­ing made,” said Bau­cus. “It’s up to the stu­dents to help to build the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship be­tween US and China in a good place. You have to keep work­ing on a re­la­tion­ship to make sure it works well.” Yan Dongjie con­trib­uted to this story.

Amer­i­can stu­dents prac­tice Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy in Bei­jing.

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