More than 20 youths from the US state of Delaware recently went online to talk about the days they spent with their Chinese student ambassadors at Hangzhou Wanxiang Polytechnic.
These US youths had visited Hangzhou Wanxiang Polytechnic, a college launched by Chinese Wanxiang Group in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, when they were high school students.
Under a four-week language and science program, signed between Wanxiang and the state of Delaware in January 2015, over 130 high school students from Delaware have been to Hangzhou Wanxiang Polytechnic, studying Chinese, engaging and cooperating with Chinese peers, and discussing green energy solutions with Chinese professors there.
Trevor Roe is a senior studying computer engineering at the University of Delaware. “Since 2015, when I visited China, I’ve continued to study Chinese,” he tells his erstwhile Chinese student ambassadors at Hangzhou.
Landon Lynn was a member of Delaware Summer Chinese STEM Study Group in 2015. He marvels at the way his Chinese peers deal with the world, keeping things under control and keeping things clean and right. “Getting the opportunity to see the lifestyle, to experience how they do things with energy and just to see how they live was really great.”
Ruhi Khan went to China in 2017 and is now a sophomore at Yale University. She recalls her experience of giving a speech in Mandarin at her cousin’s wedding to a Chinese woman, and dispelling the nervousness of the bride and her family about mixing cultures. “It just was such a beautiful moment to see how language can really bring people together.
“I am continuing my Chinese education here and continuing to learn Chinese,” she says. “I have become a ‘people person’, and I’m going to study psychology.”
Micaela Maxwell, a college student majoring in biochemistry, went to China in 2019. “When we left Hangzhou, there were tears, there were hugs. We really formed a bond with you guys in China that will never be broken and will never be forgotten.
“The next time we meet, we need to be in China. I’d like another trip there,” she says.
Several Chinese student ambassadors who had lived and studied together with these Delaware students recall their making dumplings, touring and shopping. Like the Delaware youths, they are now either in college or working in China.
While one youth talked, the others listened and were busy typing messages to each other during the virtual meeting.
Gregory Fulkerson, director of language acquisition overseeing world languages and dual language immersion at the Delaware Department of Education, says Delaware was excited by the idea of an international study program abroad that would afford Delaware students the opportunity to set them apart as candidates for future jobs or academic pursuit, when the program was first signed in 2015.
Students who participated in the program reported that they gained increased cultural knowledge regarding China’s urban and rural life and popular culture, and enjoyed making new friends and experiencing Chinese culture, Fulkerson says. They even indicated that they were more likely to find things in Chinese to read for pleasure. “They would try to understand what they read without translating it word for word into their own language.
“I am very proud of the great accomplishment of our students who benefit from our state partnership with Wanxiang,” he adds.
The partnership is just a branch of Wanxiang’s effort in the 100,000 Strong initiative and 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Wanxiang’s participation.
Citing the strategic importance of the US-China relationship, former US president Barack Obama announced the 100,000 Strong initiative in November 2009, and then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton officially launched the initiative in May 2010 in Beijing. Designed to dramatically diversify the composition and increase the number of US students studying in China, the initiative is now an independent, nonprofit organization.