International Emerging Leaders Program

at Collegiate School


March 2017

Fresh insight into Modern Chinese Culture

By Price W.


My home stay partner 陈礼实 (Chen Li Shi), also known as Marble, was an expert in Chinese folklore and Yangzhou history. As we toured the main Yangzhou attractions, Marble enthusiastically explained the cultural significance of every sight. In addition, the generosity of my host family was admirable. On the first day, my host father told me that I was a part of his family and added their surname 陈 (Chen) to my Chinese name. Every breakfast they prepared a wide selection of dishes for me, to ensure that I could try as many foods as possible. My time spent living at Marble’s home provided me with fresh insight into modern Chinese culture. Here are just a few of my observations and experiences.

Given China’s traditional culture, I was fascinated by the roles my host mother and father occupied. My host mom generously dedicated her time towards cooking and driving Marble and me to school. She also was employed at the family business’ bank. My host father owned the family’s factory and worked part-time at their hot spring, but when he was home he helped out in the kitchen. Both parents returned home at about 10:00 PM and left their apartment by 8:00 AM. During the day, Marble’s grandmother cleaned the household and did the dishes. Overall, the level of cooperation among their family members was impressive. Although this is anecdotal evidence, it supports the hypothesis that traditional, independent Chinese roles are changing.

Within Marble’s home, I saw the first-hand interaction between modern and ancient China. On the one hand, the house was filled with 21st century amenities — TV, heat, a refrigerator. Despite this, my family still remained traditional. They wore slippers in the house at all times. My host mom practiced calligraphy for two hours every day. And their apartment was filled with Chinese paintings. This intermingling of the contemporary and historic is symbolic of developing China. Consider the picture at the top of this blog post taken from 大明寺 (Da Ming Si) Pagoda. In the front, one sees the traditional architecture of ancient China. In the background, rows of apartment complexes clutter the landscape. This juxtaposition highlights the evolution of China, spurred on by rapid population growth.


DaMing Temple and Jianzhen

By Catherine P.

On Friday, our last day in China, our group took a trip to the DaMing Temple.


The temple was built in the late 400s C.E. and is famous for its relationship with the monk, Jianzhen, who was there during the beginning of the 700s C.E. Jianzhen then made five attempts to voyage to Japan to spread the Buddhist faith, but only successfully completed the voyage on his sixth attempt in 753 C.E. He then traveled for another year until he reached Nara and was welcomed the Japanese Emperor. Throughout the end of his life, Jianzhen worked to propagate Buddhism throughout the Japanese aristocracy. Thanks to his work, upon his death a dry-lawyer statue of him was made and is still on display in Nara. It was temporarily on display in Yangzhou at the DaMing temple in 1980.

We only spent around two to three hours at the temple but during that time, we saw many beautiful buildings, including a pagoda that took exactly 311 steps to climb. From the top, we could see a view that extended over all of Slender West Lake Park and featured the Yangzhou city skyline in the distance. All in all, everyone enjoyed the visit to the DaMing temple and appreciated being introduced to the   traditions and culture that it preserves.


Slender West Lake Hot Spring Resort

By Elizabeth H.

After the temple on Friday, we walked to Slender West Lake Hot Spring Resort, a traditional Chinese hot spring. Our kind and generous hosts definitely saved the best for last. This was one activity that we will never forget because we have never felt so pampered. Our relaxing visit began with an excellent lunch with many, many options to choose from. Following lunch, we headed to the main lobby where we were greeted by the staff with wrist bands that were our keys to our lockers.

The boys and girls then separated into their corresponding locker rooms where we changed. After getting into our bathing suit, we slipped into our complementary shoes, grabbed our towels, and headed out.

We were already very cold so when we found out that the hot springs were outside we were very skeptical, however, once we stepped into the first pool we were immediately soothed. There were around fifteen hot springs each one being filled with a different substance for a different reason at ranging temperatures. For example, one of my favorite ones was the coffee Spring which “rejuvenates the skin” that was 102.2° Fahrenheit.

But, one of the groups favorite springs was the one with the fish who ate the dead skin off of our body. This was one of those things that you did just to say you did it, however once I got in and became used to the fish it was incredibly relaxing. After hitting all of the hot springs, we went back inside, showered, and changed into a set of clothes that they gave us so that we could go to the resting room.

Catherine and I changed and walked upstairs to find the rest of our group members dressed in the same attire. We took pictures and laughed at each other and then sat down in the resting room. The resting room was filled with around fifty chairs each equipped with a television, pillows, and a blanket. I laid my chair down all the way and slept for an hour until we were all woken up and ushered to dinner. The visit to the hot spring was probably my favorite part of the trip because of how calm and pampered I felt, it was one of the best possible ways to end the trip.

Mini-Model UN Session

By Will H.

Model United Nations is a club both offered at Collegiate and Beijing New Oriental Foreign Language School Yangzhou. Both clubs host and attend various Model UN events in their respective home countries throughout the academic year.

During our visit to China, we took part in a mini-Model UN discussion. All Model UN discussions start with a problem and various delegates from countries discuss a solution. The problem presented to us was Corporate Social Responsibility. The country I represented was Zambia.

It was very interesting to see the differences in opinions amongst the various countries. For Zambia, a developing country, we focused on making doing business in Zambia more attractive to corporations to attract economic development. So, to further develop Zambia, in the middle of the debate, we agreed to be acquired by Microsoft (as a joke).

Despite the few jokes and hectic periods, we created a resolution. While we all agreed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was important, two groups formed and were divided on how to best implement CSR – through government regulation or through an independent organization created to oversee CSR policies. Our resolution stated that we would meet again, in another Model UN meeting, and discuss the topic in further detail.

Homestay Experience

By Olivia H.

I was unsure of what to anticipate for my homestay experience. As I walked up the six flights of stairs to reach my host families apartment, I wondered how the next couple of days would go.

The two-story apartment, where I spent the next five days, was beautiful and nicely furnished. My host student, Shirley, took me up a small flight of stairs to show me where I would be sleeping. The loft-like area included: a bedroom, a bathroom and balconies for drying clothing.

Before the trip we were informed that numerous houses and apartments do not have heating. To prepare for the possibility of being cold all night, I packed multiple pairs of sweatpants and sweatshirts. I also brought my own blanket, just in case. Unlike most of my fellow classmates, I was blessed with a heating system.

Each morning I would wake up around 7:30am and be ready for breakfast by 8:00am. Tuesday and Thursday mornings my host family took me out to breakfast. On Monday and Wednesday, however, my host mother cooked wonderful dumplings and noodles. Breakfast time was usually quiet considering the language barrier. Once I finished my breakfast either my host mother or host father would take us to school to begin the day’s adventures.

Every night my host family took me to a new and exciting place to eat dinner. While I do not have a favorite restaurant from this trip, they successfully helped me experience the famous cuisine of Jiangsu Province.

As I was leaving my host family’s house on the last morning of my stay, they informed me that if I decide to come back to China, they will welcome me with opens arms. This trip to China is one for the books, and it could not have been possible if it weren’t for the generous and caring host families from Yangzhou.

Dong Guan Street

By Kate P.

Today the whole group spent the morning at Dong Guan Street market. Located in a historic part of Yangzhou, the market is one long street filled with handmade items, clothing and lots of delicious foods.

When we arrived at the market we were split into four teams for a scavenger hunt. I was in a group with my host Rachel as well as Catherine and her host Melody. We spent an hour traveling through the market searching for red lanterns, drums, jade dragons and much more. We even tried new foods such as squid on a stick, which tasted really good!

After we finished finding everything on the list, we spent the rest of our time shopping in the stores for souvenirs and having dumplings for lunch. I really enjoyed the entire morning and loved walking around the vibrant streets filled with new shops and foods to explore.

A day in Yangzhou

By Sumner B.


Today was the second day of our visit in Yangzhou, and our first day visiting our sister school Beijing New Oriental. I quickly realized that I had greatly underestimated how big the school would be. Over 4,000 students from kindergarten through grade 12 learn and live on the vast campus.

Our first stop of the day was to a kindergarten classroom to meet some of the youngest students of the school. Even at only 6 years old these kids were quick to greet us in English with an excited “hello!” and show off their English while we helped them with their project. I wish we could have stayed longer but soon we were moving on to our next stop on the tour.

When we exited the lower school building into a spacious plaza I heard a whistle, music, and many voices headed in our direction. Out of the nearest building marched a line of students two by two. As our host buddies explained to us that these students were lining up for morning exercises hundreds more children filled the plaza. Each class had a student in front who was to lead them in the routine. Olivia Hess and I quickly jumped in line with the students and tried our best to follow along with the movements. Through the whole process I could hear the kids behind me in line laughing as I clumsily tried to copy the little girl in front of me. It’s safe to say that I stood out thanks to both my lack of coordination and the fact that I was double the height of the kids around me, but nevertheless I had a lot of fun trying.

On the way to our next stop, the gym, we noticed huge banners hung down the side of the buildings. Each of the banners was congratulating a senior for being accepted into an American university. Quite a few were for UVA which of course made many of the collegiate students excited. Once we got to the gym we played ping pong, badminton, and basketball with the other Chinese students. Some took this as an opportunity to show off their athletic skill while others, like myself, enjoyed more relaxed games with our hosts. Then we had the opportunity to learn tai chi and see an impressive performance from one of their coaches who competes in national martial arts competitions.


After a lunch and a break with our hosts. We all met in a classroom for a lesson taught by Ms. Clemans. We did a case study of Zara, the Spanish clothing store that is highly successful in the world of fast fashion. While more popular in Europe, Zara is rapidly growing, especially in China. We looked at the pros and cons of fast fashion as an industry as well as the differences in Zara’s presence in America and China. It was really interesting to discuss fashion trends and ideas with our sister school and learn about a very different perspective.


Finally we ended our day at the school with a lesson in Chinese calligraphy. After learning about the art of calligraphy from the teacher we practiced writing the Chinese characters that mean “everlasting friendship”. Camille, one of the Chinese students, helped me form the complicated Chinese characters and by the end my uneven handwriting at least vaguely resembled the graceful brush strokes from the example. Then the calligraphy instructor told us that he could tell us our personalities just by looking at our calligraphy. Of course this prompted us all to rush over with our barely dry papers and line up for him to read our handwriting. I was told that my outward calm appearance was very different from my inner personality and that I was very creative. I disagree with the creativity part but it was a lot of fun listening to his interpretations.

With our day drawing to a close, the Collegiate students parted ways and we all went home to our host families for dinner.

Visiting WestRock Asia-Pacific Headquarters

By Jake J.

Today, we visited WestRock Shanghai to meet and talk to Quentin Yan who had participated in two panels on Chinese American business relations when Beijing New Oriental Foreign Language School visited us in January at Collegiate.  Mr. Yan, who is based in Richmond, is a Director of Asia-Pacific Market Development in Paper Solutions Strategy and Business development at WestRock, a leader in the global packing industry.


We arrived at 8am and rode up to 20 stories to the lobby. Mr. Yan showed us some of WestRock’s common and iconic designs on display near the reception. He escorted us to a small conference room where he talked about the most important components of their research, design, and sales process.

“You have to be able to sell yourself and sell the company before you can sell the product” was Mr. Yan’s advice in the China market.  He then presented a video that explained the survey process, specifically women aged 25-40 who consume juices and “ready to drink” teas.  Afterwards, he opened up the floor for questions about the company and explained his roles in product development, sales, and marketing.

Sitting with Mr. Yan

Before we left, we had a quick tour of WestRock’s office space and other facilities, which were very similar to the location in Richmond.  Mr. Yan was very helpful with answering our questions and explaining how we could get involved in this field of work.


An afternoon in Shanghai

By John B.

After visiting WestRock, our tour of Shanghai began with a visit to Tianzi Fang, an old shopping bazaar where we found all sorts of traditional gifts.  Jake and I enjoyed bartering with locals when trying to buy chopsticks, waving cats, and silk scarves.


We worked up quite an appetite shopping, and ate a delicious lunch at Din Tai Fung.  From its Taiwanese origins, it has become famous for its dumplings and has attracted the attention of multiple Chinese celebrities. We are pork dumplings, fired rice, and sampled Zongzi, a recommendation from our very own Price Withers. The restaurant had a glass opening to the kitchen were we were able to watch the chefs prepare meals.

After lunch, we toured more of Shanghai’s highlights including the French and British concessions. These areas of China were occupied by each country respectively, but when they were released to China, East met West, and now “yesterday’s buildings meet today’s fashion.”  On the way to our next stop, we drove down People’s Avenue, a street where people used to race horses, saw Shanghai City Hall, and the park where locals would go to set up their children for marriage.


We then arrived at the Bund, a sightseeing stop, and saw the skyline of China including Pearl Tower and Shanghai Tower.  Our final stop at local markets was the highlight of our day.  We certainly will come home with some high quality goods.

We are currently riding the high-speed train from Shanghai to Zhenijang where we will be greeted by a representative from our partner school, Beijing New Oriental Foreign School. The bus will take us to Yangzhou where we will meet our host families.


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