Reflections from Participants in the “Hefner Initiative – USA/China/Asia” 2019 Summer Program

August 21, 2019
By Metra Taleghanifard

This summer’s Hefner Initiative trip to China included two students from The Webb Schools in California, two students and one faculty from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, one student from Western Albemarle High School in Virginia, and one teacher from the Free Union Country School in Virginia. The group spent twelve days in China, visiting the cities of Beijing and Suzhou. Highlights of the trip included spending time with host families from Beijing High School No. 4, learning about the history and culture of China at the ancient landmark sites, such as the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Capital Museum, and the Humble Administrator’s Garden. The experience included learning calligraphy and lessons playing the bamboo gourd, an ancient Chinese musical instrument. The scholars and ambassadors reflect upon their experience.

“It is experiences like the one we just had that connect people and alter lives, and this is where change will come – from people seeing the good in each other, and knowing that our world is safer and more abundant when we work through obstacles together.”
Blair Amberly, Free Union Country School

“After experiencing China’s culture, I have much more understanding and empathy for the wonderful people who live there. This experience has allowed me to imagine more creatively, possibilities for my own life, country, and the world.”
Alexandra Dagli, Western Albemarle High School

“The experience and the interactions I had with the local people transformed my perceptions of Chinese culture. I learned that China is a complex and diverse nation, one that is rich in the preservation of heritage sites, yet, one that is also at the forefront of the global capital market. From conquering the Great Wall to living alongside a host family, the authentic ways I engaged with both the land and the people, forever shaped how I’ll continue to interact with the world.”
Sydney Wuu, The Webb Schools

“The Hefner Initiative opened my eyes to an entirely new perspective on society, technology, politics, science, and the issues facing our world. It led me to understand how closely intertwined the destinies of the United States and China are, though we still have plenty to learn from one another.”
Luke Raus, The Webb Schools

“I experienced how China and the US trade culture and economic goods. I was also able to learn how Chinese citizens were able to use their history to grow a stronger future for their country. Simultaneously, I saw how western culture played a key role in shaping this future. By incorporating each other’s cultures into everyday life, China and the US build a bridge combining the two countries to create a more healthy and strong relationship.”
Srija Nuguri, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics

“This program has allowed me to form relationships and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Experiencing China gave me a new perspective on US/China relations, and it highlighted the pressing importance of maintaining a positive relationship between the two countries. I want to thank the Hefner Foundation for providing me with such an awe-inspiring opportunity!”
David Seo, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics

“China is a kaleidoscope of color, shapes, people, and action. When you have experienced China, you have experienced life.”
Dr. Janet Neufeld, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics