Summer 2017: 250 Chinese middle and high school students expected, along with 25 teachers and educators!

Every year, SPIRAL International hosts groups of 30 Chinese middle and high school students for 2-week Adventure & Learning Camps at school sites in northern New England. Since 2010, we have welcomed 81 groups, meaning over 2,400 students. This summer, we are working with 8 school sites in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut thanks to our partnerships with Stilwell International Student Exchange (a Chinese travel and education organization) and Xiang Jiang Secondary School (a private high school in Guangzhou).

The goal of these camps is to create a full immersion program in which the Chinese young people participate in activities both inside and outside the classroom to improve their English and learn first-hand about American culture.  Each camp has a site coordinator who plans the camp activities, finds host families for the students, and recruits American student "peer ambassadors."  These American students join the Chinese students in sightseeing and typical local activities such as strawberry picking, canoeing, hiking, and playing Frisbee. The cultural exchange goes both ways because all of the students have the opportunity to share ideas and opinions about family life, music, movies, sports, etc.  This experience helps the American students develop social and leadership skills.

On a typical day, the Chinese and the American students may be involved in a cooking or baking project that will require them to plan a meal, read the recipes, and identify the necessary ingredients.  The students visit a farm to pick produce, and shop together to buy the rest of the food for the project and, at the same time, discover American supermarkets.  They then work together to prepare and enjoy the meal. 

Many of the Chinese students say that, before arriving, their images of America came from popular Chinese culture and government-controlled media, images that were at times less than favorable. Thus, a key part of the program is staying with local host families. By living with an American family, the Chinese students have learn about American life and culture, and develop friendships with the host family and the local community which can last a lifetime.   

"When I came to here, I thought the American people are really friendly and kind. My host family really good to us," said Du Yuchen, a student from Chongqing.

"It's interesting. It's really different from our city," said Mei Chengran, another student from Chongqing. "The beauty is different."

"They don't know anything about their government; it's very closed to them. Compared to our government, where we can walk through the Statehouse, and meet a representative." said Charlie Hoffert, a student at U-32 High School in Montpelier VT.

"Before they came, I thought they were going to be totally different because they live in a different part of the world," said Ethan Fielder, another student at U-32. "But once you have the experience where students actually get to stay with you, you have a whole different perspective on what it's actually like, because you realize that we're all just like one people."

In addition, this summer we are inaugurating a totally new kind of camp thanks to our collaboration with the University of Vermont (UVM). Click here for more information.