The group visited Los Angeles on the first leg of their tour, stopping at Universal Studios, Disneyland, and other California sights.
While visiting Vermont, the students and teachers have stayed with families in Halifax, Whitingham, Wilmington, and Dover. During the week, students have participated in a Wings program developed by Rebecca Sweeney specifically for their stay.
Sweeney’s program includes English language instruction every day, and a wide variety of cultural activities. Most of the activities are just plain fun - the group has gone bowling at Northstar Bowl, visited Wilmington Village and participated in the Where’s Waldo scavenger hunt, visited the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, visited Boyd Farm, taken a chairlift ride to the top of Mount Snow, and even enjoyed a couple of evening bonfires. On Wednesday, they were at Sprague Sugarhouse in Jacksonville for a sugar-on-snow treat.
Daisy Yuan, a teacher from Bashu Middle School in Chonqing, says this is her second trip to the United States. Her first trip was spent in Oregon and she says she prefers Vermont.
“Vermont is great,” she says. “It’s a wonderful place to me. Compared to Oregon, the people here are more friendly, warmer. It feels like everyone wants to make us happy, and help us get used to the food, the culture, and the people here.”
On the Oregon trip, Yuan said, students got bored with the program and wanted to go home. “This time it’s the opposite,” she says. “The students love their host families and love the place here. Some students have told me they don’t want to go back to China.”
If locals thought the weather has been hot the past two weeks, Yuan says she and the others in the group have been thrilled. Chonqing city is located in the southwestern part of China, near the convergence of the Yangtze and Jialang rivers. This time of year, temperatures hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. “I love the climate here,” she said, “a much nicer place to be in the summer.”
Yuan says Chonqing is famous for hot, spicy food to go with their hot, humid weather, and beautiful girls. “It’s a large city with more than 30 million people.”
Her favorite activity during the stay in Vermont? “The bonfire,” she said. “I met some guys who can play drums very well. I started learning drums at the age of 30, so I was interested in that. It was a great party.”
Yuan says there are more student groups coming to the United States each year. “I think as Chinese people become more affluent, we feel we should spend a lot of money on programs like this,” she said.
Yuan said Chonqing is one of four municipalities in China that operate under a special status. Chonqing is an affluent area, and she says the students on the trip are from three of the area’s most highly regarded schools. The students come from families who can afford to pay nearly $6,000 for the trip.
Although students’ English skills are varied, many were having no communication problems with their American friends. Yuan says that, although she started learning English in middle school and sometimes struggles with the language, the students on this trip began learning English in kindergarten. “As Chinese become more affluent they can afford a better education,” she said. “They also have Internet and watch videos and movies,” she said.
The group held a farewell potluck dinner at the Whitingham Municipal Center in Jacksonville Wednesday evening. Thursday morning they were headed to New York City for a three-day visit.
The Vermont stay was organized through Spiral International, a Burlington-based organization.