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P.K. Yonge high schoolers visit Chinese partner school during spring break



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P.K. Yonge and NJEIS students group together before leaving for their overnight stays. Photo by Tom Tahlier.

 

On March 23, 16 excited (and somewhat travel-weary) globetrotters from P.K. Yonge set foot in Shanghai for what would be an enlightening and life-changing week in China. Thirteen high school students and three chaperones from the UF K-12 laboratory school spent spring break week in Nanjing to launch the first concrete, student-focused stage of a new partnership between P.K. Yonge and Nanjing Experimental International School (NJEIS). 

Savannah Branch, P.K. Yonge 9th grader, her partner Kitty and a friend leave for Kitty's house on a Friday afternoon.

Savannah Branch, P.K. Yonge 9th grader, her partner Kitty and a friend leave for Kitty’s house on a Friday afternoon. Photos by Tom Tahlier.

The Blue Wave students experienced a variety of cultural treats, including Chinese food, classes in Chinese language and calligraphy, kite flying, and a range of historical sites in Nanjing. 

The most memorable part of the trip, though, was the students’ weekend with NJEIS students and their families. They got to experience Chinese culture more authentically than most international travelers dream of. When the chaperones reunited with the students, they were met with an explosion of voices, laughter and animated stories about each student’s unique experiences with their partner families. Their experiences included hiking, grocery shopping, visiting theme parks, and getting a brief glimpse of Chinese family life. 

Paige Crumpton and Luisa Schlafke pose with a structure in China.

Paige Crumpton and Luisa Schlafke pose with a structure in China.

PKY students handled the transition from west to east with aplomb. Their willingness to experiment and try different things was commendable. For example, one student reflected, “Rabbit doesn’t taste like chicken, but snake does!”

Overall, each traveler expressed heightened empathy for foreigners, personal confidence, awareness of how fortunate they are, the importance of family, and a sense that their futures do not have to be restricted to the borders of their home country. 

P.K. Yonge chaperones returned eager to take the next steps in the exchange relationship with NJEIS. The two schools are currently working on NJEIS student visits to Gainesville and already planning for the next PKY group from to visit China. P.K. Yonge chaperones and administration see the relationship with NJEIS brimming with possibilities, especially through meaningful cross-cultural connections between the Gainesville and Nanjing communities. 

P.K. Yonge students experience and learn about Chinese tea culture at the Yu Garden in Shanghai.

P.K. Yonge students experience and learn about Chinese tea culture at the Yu Garden in Shanghai.

In the words of a NJEIS student, “Even though our hair, eyes and skin colors are different, our hearts are the same.”