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May 4, 2024

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Chinese and American students forge bond between two nations

Last month, Brynn Ann Castle, an American girl about to start her college life, visited the home of Zhang Xinyi, a senior student at Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School. Prior to this, Zhang accompanied her in learning Chinese martial arts such as swordsmanship, watching intangible cultural heritage dances in a park and savoring popular Chinese food like hotpot and skewered barbecued meats.

North China’s Hebei Province and the US state of Iowa signed their sister-state relationship in 1983. For more than 40 years, Hebei and Iowa have written many exemplary tales of friendly exchanges.

Castle is a student from Muscatine High School in Iowa. At the invitation of Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School, she, along with 31 classmates and eight teachers, engaged in a study tour in Hebei from April 19 to 22. The students from both schools formed one-on-one friendly partnerships.

In Zhang’s bedroom, toys like Minions and Woody quickly became the basis for the two girls to find more common topics of interest. Pipa, a traditional Chinese musical instrument, lying on Zhang’s bed particularly captured Castle’s interest.

“This instrument has been in China for 2,000 years. It’s similar to a guitar but a bit harder to learn,” Zhang told her.

After Castle expressed her desire to have a try, Zhang helped her put on the pipa fingernails and shared some playing techniques. Soon, a crisp sound of pipa filled the room.

They also sampled tea and desserts, flipped through family photo albums and shared stories about their families. By around 9pm, they were still reluctant to part.

Zhang gave Castle a book on Chinese history and a toy as gifts.

“They’ve been very hospitable. It’s been an incredible experience,” said Castle.

Teachers and students from Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School prepared a welcome concert for their American guests inspired by elements such as poetry of the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, famous Chinese paintings and calligraphy.

The American students also learned an ancient Chinese poem, practiced ping-pong, made dumplings with their partners, planted friendship trees and visited ancient relics, among others. The final part was marked by traveling by high-speed train to the Xiong’an New Area.

“We hoped the students from both countries would have ample opportunity to interact during the brief period of just over three days,” said Liu Feng, vice principal of Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School.

Liu noted that the program was designed with input from the American side. For instance, the American students expressed a desire to attend Chinese classes with the Chinese students. In line with the current season, the school chose an ancient poem depicting intoxicating springtime.

Feng Xinya, who is about to attend Zhejiang University, said that the most memorable part of the exchanges was playing ping-pong with her partner, Evangelina Schaapveld.

“When she tried to play ping-pong, I was pleasantly surprised by how well she played. I then learned that she occasionally plays it at home. I shared with her the story of ping-pong diplomacy between our countries.” Feng said that she would share more technically challenging moves through videos and would continue to nurture their friendship through ping-pong.

During the study tour, Chinese and American students also planted the first batch of trees for the China-US friendship woods.

Colin Millage, a student from Muscatine High School, said having a tree together with his Chinese friend is more than a bond between them; it is a bond between the two nations.

Millage said the friendship between Hebei and Iowa taught him “to cherish friendship and create these bonds between our partners.”

Joseph Mcneely, another Muscatine student, has been studying Chinese for four years and aspires to become an architect. He highly praises Xiong’an’s architecture, which harmonizes with nature, and he is also impressed by its utilization of solar energy.

After visiting the Xiong’an New Area, he said: “I hope to integrate Chinese elements and concepts into my future designs.”

At the Yuerong Park in Xiong’an, Chinese and American students said their goodbyes. Many hugged tightly, reluctant to part.

The Muscatine High School delegation was part of a China-initiated program that will invite 50,000 American youths to China within five years for exchanges and study. The delegation was the second batch from the school.


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