Journey to the East: Looking Beyond the Bubble
“In so many different ways, we live in a bubble,” says global educator Bill Kwong, who is leading a new program for Eastside seniors called Journey to the East. Throughout the year, students have participated in a wide variety of classes, cultural experiences, and field trips, which will culminate in a two-week trip to China next summer. The main purpose of the program, as Bill puts it, is enabling students to “look beyond the bubble.”
The whole experience, including the trip to China, is generously supported by DL Holdings, as well as the CJSE Family Foundation, which was started by DL Holdings’ co-founders Crystal Jiang and Andy Chen. Crystal was inspired to provide this opportunity by her own experience studying abroad, which she found to be very eye-opening. She says she wants young people to “really see China” in all its complexity.
Thus far, the 10 seniors who are participating have been taking full advantage of all the program has to offer – eagerly engaging in classroom discussions, trying new foods and activities, and making a sincere effort to broaden their perspectives. Eastside teacher Jaya Subramanian, who will serve as a chaperone on the trip to China, reflects that “[The students have] all been very diligent and responsive…they’ve been great.”
During monthly seminars and field trips, students have been learning from a variety of experts, including professors and PhD students whose research is focused on Chinese history and culture. Many of the seminars have included hands-on elements, like trying to solve Chinese puzzles or practicing the art of paper cutting. Students are also taking Mandarin lessons and communicating with Chinese “buddies” – high school students in China who they will meet in person when they travel there.
The trip to China was originally planned for this summer, but given COVID-19 restrictions, this won’t be possible. Instead, program participants have been invited to join next year’s trip, which will occur the summer after they complete their freshman year of college. In the meantime, they have been going on local adventures, including a recent day trip to Chinatown, where they took a tour, had a martial arts lesson, witnessed a traditional lion dance, and attended a tea ceremony.
Student Stephanie Xiloj really enjoyed the day trip, especially the lunch. “A lot of the stuff I had was new and different, but I definitely didn’t shy away from trying it,” she says.
Her classmate Billy Rosas echoes this sentiment, noting that “The food was amazing,” and that “It was really nice learning about the history of Chinatown.”
Both students are also eager to continue exploring Chinese culture during the trip next summer.
Billy notes that the trip will be his first time traveling abroad. “I’m excited to go somewhere I’ve never been, just immerse myself, and of course meet our buddies from over there,” he says.
“I have been interested in East Asian culture for quite a while,” says Stephanie, sharing that her sister introduced her to Korean dramas, which led to her watching Chinese dramas. “I’m excited that it won’t just be me looking at China through a screen, it’ll be me personally being there.”
Already, many of the students have found it rewarding to venture out of their own bubbles and gain a much deeper understanding of another culture. “It’s just great to learn about all these new things,” says Billy.