East Meets West
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East Meets West
Ending Stereotypes...one friendship at a time!
Author: Laura Lomax - Pearl S. Buck International

(Hilltown Twp., PA, July 6, 2015)  After months of interaction via social media and the Chinese students visiting the U.S. in May, on June 18th a delegation of eight high school students from Souderton Area High School, one Delaware Valley University student, and a program administrator from Pearl S. Buck International, participated in an educational cross cultural exchange trip to the People’s Republic of China. During this one-week cultural excursion the members of the American delegation had the chance to immerse themselves in Chinese family life, food, culture, and history. The purpose of the trip was to dispel the stereotypes experienced by both nationalities.

Inspired by the legacy of Pearl S. Buck, this trip was part of a multidisciplinary Museums ConnectSM project, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that is administered by the American Alliance of Museums. The U.S. student delegation approached the visit with great excitement and the anticipation of a reunion with their friends from China. Each student expressed a desire to learn as much as they could about what life is truly like in China. By the end of the trip, all of the students involved expressed a deep appreciation for the opportunity to learn about each other’s culture and to forge friendships that will last a lifetime. Tianze Shao, of China, said it best when he shared that, “2015 is the best year ever; having graduated from high school, being accepted into an international college in Germany, and having formed meaningful friendships with members of the U.S. delegation is just amazing to me.”

The trip included experiencing Chinese delicacies, ancient art and history, water gardens, and a visit to the Pearl S. Buck Museum. The highlight of the trip was when the entire delegation was invited to participate in a Master Chef Challenge at the Zhenjiang Vocation Technical College, where they worked alongside the college’s expert cooking students as they learned to make traditional Chinese dishes. The students enjoyed the cooking lesson and several of the young men acknowledged it was the first time that they had made anything so technical in the kitchen.

The departure was filled with laughter and tears amidst promises to remain in touch until future visits.  The stereotypes that existed at the outset of the project were completely dispelled as they came to know each other and realized the similarities of the life of a high school student, whether in China or America. They promised to share their experiences with others so that more individuals will become open to building relationships and possibly lifelong friendships with people from other cultures. Souderton student Alicia Bateman shared that, “witnessing the differences between our cultures has not created a divide for me, but has sparked a desire to experience and understand as much as I can about the Chinese culture. Now, I am much more aware of the presence of other cultures and the world seems to have expanded-- but it also seems much more accessible. Having this opportunity through the Museums Connect program, when I go back, I will not only be visiting China, but visiting the friends I have made and sharing in their way of life.  This trip has forever connected me to China, its people, and culture…the experiences will continue to affect how I view and receive other cultures. I do hope to return to China for a longer stay to uncover even more."

About Pearl S. Buck International

Pearl S. Buck International® provides opportunities to explore and appreciate other cultures, builds better lives for children around the globe and promotes the legacy of our founder by preserving and interpreting her National Historic Landmark home.