Published: 10:33, May 22, 2024
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US students explore China
By Zhao Yimeng

Two-week visit opens a window for American youths to experience nation

Students from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the United States visit the Forbidden City in Beijing on May 17, 2024. (Zou Hong / China Daily)

Dozens of college students from the United States recently embarked on a journey to discover China, attending lectures from experts and joining cultural tours during a two-week visit to learn more about the country.

Fifteen students and teachers from Indiana University of Pennsylvania were scheduled to visit technology companies such as Xiaomi, experience Chinese culture in Beijing and Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and attend lectures about Sino-US relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

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Most of the students haven't been to China before, and expressed excitement about traveling around what is, for many of them, the first Asian country they have ever visited.

During their visit to Xiaomi on Friday, some of the students said that the Xiaomi SU7 on display, the company's first electric car, was the most amazing vehicle they'd ever seen.

While Elizabeth Ashe was busy taking photos with the green car, which was the same color as her nails, software engineering student Kamir Walton was asking questions about problems the car may have with charging.

Walton said he was especially impressed by the color of the car.

"When I was told the color was scientifically taken from the ocean, I thought I would really buy it," Walton said.

He added that a similar vehicle would be sold for over $150,000 in the US, while it costs about 290,000 yuan ($40,000) in China.

Computer science student Kenneth Au said he was curious about how China has been able to shift to an electric car system while the current infrastructure still supports gas-powered vehicles.

"It seems like China can fully convert to a whole electric car system, much better than any American system," Au said.

The cheaper prices of advanced electronic products such as smartphones and laptops have drawn the students' attention, but they said they are still concerned about the ability to use Chinese products outside the country.

For example, Au asked staff about the use of the Windows system and CarPlay functions on Xiaomi products.

"If I buy a Chinese product and I'm outside China, I may not get technical support from China," Au said, adding that he liked Xiaomi better than his current Samsung phone because of the lower price.

The college students were excited about the ancient architecture in the Forbidden City and how it fits Beijing's modern landscape.

Walton said the size of the Forbidden City was mind-boggling.

"As a young country, we don't have ancient structures in the US.It's amazing that one emperor lived in a place literally the size of a city," he said.

Kayla Kristchil, who has traveled to some European countries, a region known for its historic monuments, was impressed by the combination of modern and ancient landscapes in Beijing.

She took a picture in the Forbidden City, with the palace and distant skyscrapers such as China Zun in the background.

Kristchil and her schoolmates joined physical education classes at Beijing Foreign Studies University on Monday, exploring Chinese culture through table tennis and kung fu.

Having played table tennis at home in the US, she played well against her Chinese counterpart during the class.

Kristchil emphasized the importance of cross-cultural communication through sports.

"Sport gives you something in common. We didn't even have to talk; just playing ping-pong and spending time together was fun," she said. "Despite many differences between China and the US, having a common interest like sports is important."

Organized by BFSU, the tour program aims to open a window for US university students to experience China.

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Tu Xiliang, one of the program organizers from BFSU, said the program provides college students from the two countries with opportunities for discussions and interactions, as well as practical research and exchange activities.

The university consulted IUP about the needs of the visitors in advance and redesigned their itinerary to feature various activities rather than just lectures.

"The US students want to experience a ride on a high-speed railway in China, so that's why we arranged a train trip from Beijing to Hangzhou in southern China," Tu said.

The team will see China's rural areas in Hangzhou's Fuyang district and learn the history of the Grand Canal running between Beijing and Hangzhou, he said.

Since the number of US students studying in China has decreased in recent years, Tu said he hoped the program would attract more international students to pursue further education in China and discover the country themselves.