They whet their appetites learning the Mandarin language, now 29 Hunting Hills High School students are about to get a taste of Chinese culture as they embark on a 12-day trip to Beijing and beyond.
Grade 12 students Emilea Clinton and Devin Ouellette are especially anticipating the March 30 departure, since both hope to start their post-secondary education at Chinese universities next year.
Clinton said she’s been interested in China’s pop culture, music and literature for several years now; “I’m hoping to get a major cultural experience somewhere completely different, where I’ve never been before.”
Ouellette, who spent 11 months as a Rotary Club exchange student in Taiwan last year, wants to compare that adventure to being in mainland China.
“Taiwan is a democracy and China has a communist government, so I’m interested in seeing how that affects people’s lives,” he added.
Ouellette and Clinton, who are applying for Chinese university scholarships, are among a growing number of Red Deer high school students who are becoming fluent in Mandarin through for-credit classes at Hunting Hills.
Since China is becoming the world’s economic powerhouse, vice-principal Rick Ramsfield believes more young people are considering learning the language a good bet for future employment prospects.
Hunting Hills offers Mandarin classes in Grades 9 to 12 and Notre Dame High School is starting to as well.
Ramsfield said some Edmonton schools offer classes in the Chinese language starting from kindergarten, “and we’re looking at that eventually, as it’s growing in popularity.”
The trip is not only a chance for the students to experience Chinese culture firsthand, but to practise the language they’re learning, said Ramsfield.
He noted that one stop will involve visiting a high school in Chongqing, which is being twinned with Hunting Hills.
“Our students will be meeting students their own age.”
The visit will also include visiting a panda sanctuary, a giant Buddha statue and monkey-overrun temple in Chengdu, seeing the world-famous terracotta soldiers and cycling along the walls of the ancient city of Xian, and visiting the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden Palace in Beijing.
By seeing the wonders of China, Ramsfield hopes his students develop a deeper appreciation of what many Canadians often take for granted.
He noted 20 million people — or the equivalent of nearly half of Canada’s population — compete for space in Beijing. “They’ll see the closeness of people, how they have to live and get along with each other, and hopefully they will appreciate the space we have here in Canada.”
He also hopes the trip will spark a life-long love of travel.