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