By Sumner B.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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