With fall in full force, summer seems like a distant memory. For nearly 20 Washington State secondary students, however, the summer included a memory that will hopefully inspire a life-long love of learning Chinese.

Students from high schools across Washington State traveled to China in July 2013 through CIWA’s prestigious Chinese Bridge Summer Camp. Chinese teachers, Yea-Jae Wang and Shufen Li traveled with the students and held classes at Chief Sealth International High School before and after the trip to China.

The students traveled to Beijing and the Yunnan Province where they went to classes each day, had field trips, and learned about Chinese culture.

Student Gwynne Benton said that one of her favorite parts of the trip was experiencing daily life at Yunnan Normal University 云南师范大学. “I loved talking to the people I met there. I visited the same convenience store multiple times a day to speak in Chinese with the shopkeeper.”

On their return from China, students shared culminating projects with their classmates, teachers, and guardians.

Benton offers some advice to students who are thinking about participating in the program next year.

“Be bold. Put yourself out there. Talk with the locals. Use your Chinese. Make friends with them. Meet other American students as well. If you take yourself out of your comfort zone a bit, you’ll come home with friends all around the U.S. and around the world.”