Prep ventures around the globe: China trip

From Issue 8


Students and chaperones walk the Great Wall of China. Photo courtesy of Hannah Arnold.

Students and chaperones walk the Great Wall of China.
Photo courtesy of Hannah Arnold.

Over spring break, seven Prep students, accompanied by Mr. Adam Mangana, Ms. Jane Zhu, and Mr. Don Regan, braved the 14-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean to visit China. 

Jackson Prep has a sister school in Taizhou, China. The students on this trip (Hannah Arnold, Dixon Hughes, Tori Johnston, Matt Gross, Rankin Reynolds, Isabella Scalia, and Cade Engels) had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit this school as well as many other incredible locations and landmarks. 

On the first day, students made the long journey from Jackson, MS to Beijing, China. The group first flew from Jackson to Dallas, then from Dallas to Beijing. After watching several movies, the students and their chaperones arrived exhausted, but excited, in Beijing. 

The first stops on their adventure were Tiananmen Square, which can hold up to 1 million people, and the Forbidden City, so named because when it was built to house China’s emperor, commoners were killed if they attempted to enter the city.

No words can even begin to describe how incredible it was to spend ten days in China with an amazing group of people.

— Hannah Arnold

The second stop of the day was a bicycle tour in the Hutong District of Beijing. Following lunch, the group visited the Temple of Heaven,  which was built during the 1400s, a time when emperors were still worshipped as gods.  

Up next was what most students agreed was their favorite part of the trip, the “fake mall,” a place where counterfeits of nearly any luxury brand could be found. From Rolex watches to Yeezy shoes, the group was bombarded by salespeople offering a plethora of fake, yet overpriced items; part of the fun was bargaining for a lower price. 

Dixon Hughes was particularly pleased with one purchase, a pair of fake designer shoes purchased for 275 yuan that he bargained down from 800 yuan. In her blog, Hannah Arnold said that she thought the highlight of the fake mall was Mr. Mangana and Cade Engels unknowingly purchasing fake Yeezys. 

  On the third day of the trip, the students had the opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China. Despite the beauty of the surrounding countryside, the climb was physically challenging. Later that day, the group also visited the Summer Palace, built by the first emperor as a vacation home. While there, students met two groups of Chinese students, one from Beijing and one from Shanghai, who were interested in coming to Prep’s international camp this summer.

The students also had the incredible opportunity to visit our sister school, Taizhou School. It was time to leave Beijing, and one crowded, seven hour train ride later, they arrived in Taizhou. For this portion of the trip, the students were on their own while their chaperones went sightseeing in the nearby city of Hangzhou. 

The students received a warm welcome from the Taizhou School and even recognized some of the Chinese students who had visited Jackson earlier this year. In order to find out more about the differences between school in China and school in America, I interviewed Hannah Arnold to get her perspective on the experience. 

Possibly the greatest difference between the schools was the time Chinese students spent in the classroom and on campus. The students live on campus six days out of the week, going home on Saturday, and the official school day lasts from 7 AM to 7 PM. However, Hannah told me that since Prep students would be staying in their host family’s homes for several days, they were allowed to leave school at 5 PM to go home with the students. Another difference is that Chinese students do not move classrooms; the teachers do. There are roughly nine or ten class periods per day. 

Prep students and faculty visit one of the many eye-catching buildings in Beijing. Photo courtesy of Hannah Arnold.

Hannah also told me that one major culture shock for her while staying with her host family was the absence of ice cold drinks; most people in China only drink hot tea or water. She said it was life-changing to be able to experience a school and a culture so completely different from her own. Being able to make friends with people halfway across the world showed her that we are all students no matter where we live or how we learn.

On the seventh day of their trip, the students said goodbye to their host families and left Taizhou for Shanghai. After being reunited with the adults, the group took yet another train and shared stories from the three days they had spent at the Taizhou school. While in Shanghai, the students visited the Pearl Oriental Tower. They also visited the tower’s all glass observation deck. Though it required some courage to walk out onto the glass platform, the observation deck provided beautiful views of the Shanghai skyline. 

The group then visited the Shanghai History Museum, located directly underneath the tower. The museum described how Shanghai became an international melting pot of some of the major historical figures associated with the city. The next day, the students traveled to the more relaxed Zhujiajiao Water Town where they explored beautiful gardens and admired the meticulous landscaping. Mr. Mangana, Tori, Dixon, and Hannah all even paid to have a fish pedicure. The small flesh eating fish supposedly eat all of the dead skin off of your feet, leaving them smooth and clean. 

Up next was the bargaining black market, yet another place filled with fake Yeezys and other illegal knock-off items. When the group emerged from the chaos, they had purchased 21 pair of shoes, 15 of which were Yeezys. They estimated that together they had spent around $600 US dollars in shoes. At $30 a pair, this is not a bad deal by any means. Many members of the group had to find extra luggage to transport their prizes home. 

Finally, it was time to leave China behind and return to America. After yet another grueling flight, the group was home in Jackson, MS. While words alone cannot convey the life changing experience of being immersed in a different culture, they can certainly try. Hannah Arnold said, “No words can even begin to describe how incredible it was to spend ten days in China with an amazing group of people. The fact that none of us in the group really knew each other before the trip strengthened the bonds we made throughout the trip and made it an unforgettable experience.”