Changing places: Branson students visit Shanghai Gezhi High School

tangyuanBranson students learn how to make tang yuan during an exchange at Shanghai Gezhi High School

T

he new year has been a busy time for Ameson and even busier for Ameson students. Just days after 5 top schools in the United States hosted nearly 100 students during our SAYA 2013 exchange, Ameson’s AHSP partner school Shanghai Gezhi High School got the chance to return the favor. On February 21, a group of 13 students from San Francisco’s The Branson School arrived in China for an 8 day trip. The group of Branson freshmen, sophomores and juniors spent two days living and studying with their Chinese peers, sitting for classes in traditional Chinese culture such as ethnic music, paper cutting and wushu along with Common Core classes.

Upon arrival, Branson students’ first stop was the Gezhi High conference hall. After Director Guo Feiyan gave the students an introduction to Gezhi, Professor Wu Qianyuan led students on a tour through Gezhi's leafy campus. The final stop on the tour was the campus ping pong room, where Branson and Gezhi students got the chance to get to know one another better in the heat of competitive ping pong battle!

taijiStudents enjoyed a variety of cultural activities in addition to attending Common Core classesThe following afternoon saw Branson students enjoying China’s holiday season in the Gezhi cafeteria. Lantern Festival, which marks 15 days after Chinese New Year, is celebrated with a bowl of tang yuan, a soup with a sweet broth and glutinous rice balls stuffed with even more sugary filling. Naturally, Branson kids were curious: how are such delicacies made? Gezhi students and staff were happy to oblige, and together the hungry young Chinese and American chefs rolled out, stuffed and steamed tray upon tray of the seasonal treat.

After sampling the Chinese culinary arts, the students were hungry for more. Lucky for them, Yang Min, one of Gezhi’s top music instructors, created a video presentation introducing the students to some of China’s regional music styles and traditional instruments, including the pipa, zhongruan and, of course, the indispensible erhu. American students even had a chance to try their hand at the instruments. There was no Yoyo Ma in the group, but Yang Min’s instruction on proper bowing form for the erhu managed to produce a few right notes.

monsters-of-folkAmeson is excited to see more globally aware youth from American high schools coming to China. Thus far, the majority of cultural exchanges have featured Chinese students studying and traveling in the US, but in recent years the flow of educational exchange between the two countries has begun to balance. Take Branson, whose students already visited the Middle Kingdom in 2011 with Ameson’s help. The only thing more rewarding for the Ameson family than seeing schools participate in their first international exchange is seeing them expand and deepen their international exposure. We look forward to sharing more first, second and third trips to China with our American educational partners.
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