During the March Break, with everything going on in the world, I couldn’t help but think about where I was the year before: China.  What a difference a year makes! March 2019 was our year to travel to China to visit our partner school, Dong Chang High School. It was also my first trip to China and simply put, it was fantastic. I led a group of ten high school students, along with our Mandarin teacher Jingjing Lai. As I was leaving China last March, I couldn’t wait to go back and I remember thinking about the places that I wanted to revisit and being disappointed about the places I did not have time to visit. I experienced first hand the indelible learning that occurs when students are able to immerse themselves in a new culture and place—to hear language spoken in its native tongue, to savor the different flavors and textures of each region's cuisine, and to learn face-to-face a people's customs and ways of being.
 

StLukesChinaTravelPhotos from St. Luke's trip to China to visit partner school Dong Chang High School

Now, my thoughts turn to our tour guide. How is she faring? She was in her 20s, had worked her way through high school and learned English on her own. Her job as a guide provided support to her family and she was saving for her own apartment in Beijing. I hope she is healthy, and I truly hope that she is back to work because she was an excellent guide. We learned so much from her. I think, too, about our partner school and the time we spent with the students, teachers, and administrators. In over ten years of working with them, it was the first time I had been able to visit their school. It was so nice to join them in their school and get to know them better. I even reconnected with teachers that had been part of the first exchanges at St. Luke's School. Their hospitality and kindness were memorable and I look forward to seeing them again in the future. 

StLukesSchoolandDongchang_woWith our partner school Dong Chang High School

JumpropeatDongChangHighEveryday life in high school in mainland China

chinatemple of heavenTouring Beijing's Temple of Heaven 

StLukesSchoolmaking-noodles-inChinaLearning to make noodles

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to China with our students and Ms. Lai. Not only did we get to explore a new country and culture, but the travel and exchange gave us context and connections to what is happening in the world today.  When we hear news of events in China, we have a better understanding of what it “looks like” and what our friends there might be experiencing. We have a sense of place. We remember the vibrancy of the cities, the bustle of daily life and we can imagine their world without those things not only because we experienced their world but because it has become our world as well. It’s more real. Even more, having spent time there and knowing people there helps us to feel the deep connections between us all. While we may be across the world from each other, we are sharing this experience. I look forward to the day when we can see each other again in person, either in Shanghai or New Canaan (perhaps both!) and celebrate together. 

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 St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.   

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