Peninsula High School student Marcy Channon has been selected to attend the Chinese Bridge Summer Camp, a two-week structured program from the Confucius Institute of the State of Washington to enhance understanding between American and Chinese students.
Through a combination of classroom study and excursions, she and 19 other students from Washington and about 700 total from across America, will have an opportunity to expand their language skills and experience China’s rich culture, tradition and history.
She will depart for the world’s most populous nation on July 8.
After Channon witnesses opening ceremonies in Beijing, China’s capital, she will get on a plane for a five-hour trip to Yunnan province, located in the southwest portion of the country, where she will spend most of her time.
Students will be housed in college campuses in China during the duration of their stay.
After they spend time in various provinces, students will return to Beijing for closing ceremonies and return to America.
“I’ve never been to China,” said Channon, although she is no stranger to traveling the globe, as her father is an airline pilot.
“It’s really fascinating,” she said.
Channon, 16, was tapped to participate in the summer camp after she wrote an essay, answered some questions and got a visa.
“It’s serious stuff,” she quipped.
Channon has two years of Chinese language under her belt as part of teacher Heidi Steele’s renowned foreign language program, and she’s looking forward to testing out her skills.
“I’m really interested in seeing how people interact with each other,” Channon said of Americans communicating with Chinese in their native language. “It’ll be a great thing to tell my friends about.”
There will be some adjustments that Channon will have to make from classroom learning and practice to carrying out actual conversations.
“It’s going to be really, really fast,” Steele said of what the foreign language will sound like to Channon during her time in China.
She also cautioned her student that various accents might make it more difficult for Channon to understand what’s being said.
Channon will have to make a real effort to speak Chinese, not only because she’ll be surrounded by many fellow English-speaking Americans on the trip with her, but also because many of the Chinese will be able to speak English fairly well, as they have been studying the world’s most widespread language for a long time.
“But it will be so good for you,” Steele told her.
“I can speak it better than I can read it,” Channon said.
Channon predicts her time in China will improve her language skills.
“My Chinese will be strengthened for sure,” she said.
In the meantime, Channon is preparing for her trip to the Far East by keeping up her learning about China, a nation whose history she finds fascinating, especially considering its enhanced and growing stature during the past two decades. She’s reading books on Chinese culture and watching Chinese news broadcasts on TV.
“I’m getting my knowledge from all kinds of different places,” Channon said.
Besides language, she’s learning other practical skills to use in China, including how to exchange money, restaurant etiquette and how to bargain when she goes shopping.
“It will be a full cultural experience,” Channon said.
Her upcoming experience will be a boon to her host nation as well, with China looking to continue its rise as a world power.
“Really, it’s part of China’s soft diplomacy,” Steele said. “That’s why they’re bringing these kids to summer camp. They take really, really good care of their students.”
As for Channon, her upcoming trip is just the beginning, if she has anything to do with it.
“I’d like to study Asian cultures in college,” she said. “I’m focusing on schools that have that.”
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.