by Xinhua Writers Du Jing, Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, June 16 (Xinhua) -- For some American students -- minorities in particular -- studying abroad is something beyond their reach. But they now get a real chance to study on the other side of the globe, and for free.
Three senior students at the Phelps High School, a public school in Washington, D.C. and primarily attended by African-Americans, are going to China on June 29 for a six-week learning experience.
"I'm very excited, I've never been there," Zamakshary Abul-Qasim told Xinhua in an interview Thursday. "There are a lot of things we want to see there, the Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall."
The 16-year-old boy, together with his two schoolmates, are going to spend their time mostly at the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing, living together in dormitories with Chinese students.
The expenses of their Chinese trip will be covered under a State Department's program, which is part of the 100,000 strong Initiative announced by President Barack Obama in November 2009. The initiative is a national effort designed to increase dramatically the number, and diversify the composition, of American students studying in China, with a goal of sending 100,000 American students to China over four years.
Abul-Qasim has been learning Chinese for two years in Phelps, taking two or three Chinese classes a week and 30 minutes per class.
"It's my own decision to study Chinese, which is different from Spanish, I want to learn something different," he said when asked why he chose to study Chinese.
Another reason, maybe more important, is he believed learning Chinese may help build a better career.
"I believe Chinese will help me, because when you think about American future and its connections with China, you can think of the collaboration that possibly happen in a couple of years. It might be very necessary that I learn Chinese if I want to move forward and keep going," he said.
Through two years of learning Chinese language, Abul-Qasim has also built a better understanding of Chinese culture, which he said is very different from that of America. In China, when you go out to have dinner with your family, you share all the dishes, while in America, you order by yourself, he said.
Chanel Sarter, a 16-year-old girl at Phelps, is also one of the three trippers. Like Abul-Qasim, she has been studying Chinese for two years.
"I plan to study Chinese when I go to college. I want to work ... as a Chinese interpreter, so I think it will help me in the future," she explained why she decided to learn the language.
With increasingly close ties between the U.S. and China, there has been mounting demand for Americans who have good knowledge about both Chinese language and Chinese culture to facilitate the exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.
The 100,000 strong Initiative seeks to prepare the next generation of American experts on China who will be charged with managing the growing political, economic and cultural ties between the U.S. and China, according to the State Department.
Nearly 128,000 Chinese students are studying in American universities and colleges during the 2009/2010 academic year, making China the No. 1 source for international students in the U.S. higher education system, according to the annual Open Doors report released by the Washington-based Institute of International Education (IIE).
However, there are much less American students going to China for study, an imbalance that the State Department said could undermine strategic trust between the two countries. That's why the U.S. and China are making joint efforts to implement the 100,000 strong Initiative to address this imbalance in knowledge and enhance mutual understanding.