International Emerging Leaders Program

at Collegiate School



Business Connections Between Virginia and Shanghai

As part of our study of the economic relationship between Virginia and China and different businesses that connect the two, we met with two business leaders in Shanghai. The first was Collegiate parent, Mr. James Xu (Vivian’s Dad), who runs a company that exports hardwood from Virginia and other parts of North America into China for furniture and other household uses. Hearing first hand about the business model as well as the challenges and opportunities was such a great learning experience.

Our second business model exploration began in Richmond with a visit to WestRock, the global packaging company whose consumer packaging is headquartered in Richmond. During that visit we learned about the Asia Pacific operations within the company, and during our visit to the Shanghai office visit we got see the business in action and heard from Mr John Huang, the head of sales for WestRock in China. He also shared his insights about how to best do business in China for an American-based company.


Exploring Shanghai

Our first day was spent learning about the history and growth of Shanghai from a fishing village into a thriving global financial hub.

We visited the observation deck of the Shanghai Tower, one of the tallest buildings in Asia. This gave us a great perspective of the size of the city.

Earth One Hour

By Zach M.IMG_8889

Earth One Hour, which happened to be more than one hour, was one of my favorite experiences of the trip to China.  The event was designed to reinforce the idea of saving energy, as the whole school shut off its’ power for the event and everyone proceeded to the auditorium to watch performances.

Our very own John Bullock gave a memorable performance, where he and another student sang “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran.  Additionally, all of the Collegiate School students danced to “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Juju On That Beat.”

However, my favorite part of the night was a short play put on by two students of the Beijing New Oriental School in Yangzhou.  Without the use of words, they were limited to what they could do, but their expressions and actions told a life story that was both comical and meaningful.  While we were all exhausted, experiencing this event was definitely worth staying up for.

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.

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