Reflections from Participants in the “Hefner Initiative – USA/China/Asia” 2016 Summer Program

August 30, 2016
By Lucy Carr

Five American students and two teachers participated in this year’s program, spending twelve days in Beijing and Suzhou. The students were hosted by Beijing High School No. 4, and visited the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall of China, and the National Museum of China, among many other sites. The group then took a bullet train to Suzhou, where they visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Suzhou Museum, and learned traditional Chinese calligraphy.

“Perhaps one of the most unforgettable portions of the trip was meeting Phyllis and her parents, my host family. Several days into our stay in Beijing, I remember calling home and telling my parents that Phyllis was the most like myself of anyone that I have ever met. Who would have thought that such a well-matched friend existed half way across the world?”
-Eileen Egolf, Hefner Scholar- Creede

“Staying with my host family showed me that although there are big differences between U.S. and Chinese culture, we aren’t all that different. That these people went out of their way to accommodate me, for nothing in return, has really stuck with me. Their kindness, generosity, and hospitality was the highlight of my trip.”
-Kaitlin Hawkes, Hefner Scholar- Webb

“This trip gave me a genuine understanding of a culture I assumed I knew everything about. Every day led to new discoveries; expectations were met or corrected, insight about our respective cultures was shared between me and the local students, the beauty of the Chinese monuments inspired awe, reminding me the limits of what pictures can convey.”
-Raphael Huang, Hefner Scholar- Webb

“I kept arriving at one simple realization: China deems its cultural heritage as an asset, something to be inherently proud of, and something to not be shed. While America innovates as a startling pace, shifting from cultural importance to unthinkable technology. Regardless of these different ideologies, their partnership is essential to the world on not only an economic level, but something of a cultural one as well. A great of number of things can be learned from China.”
-Ritvik Ganguly, Hefner Scholar- OSSM

“I gained newfound wisdom on China’s connection to the west and finally verified my beliefs about modern Chinese culture myself. On top of that, I had seen some of the greatest sites to ever be created by man himself, made new friends, and got to live adventurously for over ten days.”
-Zach Arani, Hefner Scholar- OSSM

“A real connection with another culture begins from visiting, engaging, looking closely and open mindedly at their way of life. I am so fortunate and grateful to have had the experience to spend time interacting with some of the people and history of China. It has changed the way I will always think of China. It is one of my favorite places I have visited, a place I want to learn much more about, and one that I want to revisit throughout my life. It has also changed the way I will discuss and promote China in the U.S.—as a place of incredible history, hardworking and peaceful people, and forward-thinking in our modern world.”
-Blair Amberly, Hefner Ambassador- Free Union Country School

“Through the Hefner Initiatives, the students realize how big the world truly is. They gain a greater understanding of other cultures, and witness new perspectives outside the United States. Seeing the emotional and intellectual development of our students is one of the great joys in participating in this program. They take plenty home with them, but – whether they realize it or not – also leave something with their new friends in Beijing. “
-Mark Li, Hefner Ambassador-OSSM