By Grace Rybak

On May 14, 67 Breck students, teachers, and parents embarked on Breck School’s 27th trip to China, led by Breck’s Chinese teacher, Margaret Wong. All of the students on the trip have been studying Mandarin with their Chinese teachers, Yang Laoshi and Wong Laoshi. The group visited seven cities in China: Beijing, Harbin, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

By Grace Rybak

On May 14, 67 Breck students, teachers, and parents embarked on Breck School’s 27th trip to China, led by Breck’s Chinese teacher, Margaret Wong. All of the students on the trip have been studying Mandarin with their Chinese teachers, Yang Laoshi and Wong Laoshi. The group visited seven cities in China: Beijing, Harbin, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

In addition to the goals of cultural enrichment and improving language proficiency, our group had a special purpose as cultural ambassadors in Harbin, a sister city to Minneapolis. During our two-day stay in Harbin, one of our activities included a visit to Harbin #1 High School, where students from both schools performed for each other, then conversed in both Chinese and English about the similarities and differences between Chinese and American schools.

That night, we were joined by my father, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, at a banquet with vice-mayor, and other city officials from Harbin. He spoke about the importance of the relationship between Harbin and Minneapolis, and the need to foster this relationship as both of our countries search for solutions to the world’s problems. With the help of my teachers, I was lucky enough to have prepared a translation of my father’s speech in advance and delivered it with relative ease.

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Mayor Rybak giving a speech, translated by his daughter, Gracie, at a Harbin Baquet hosted by the vice-mayor of Harbin

My father was very impressed by the city of Harbin, and proud that Minneapolis is Harbin’s sister city. “The comparisons between the two cities go beyond climate,” he said, “Harbin is a beautiful, clean city with a developing riverfront that will continue to grow.” He also stated that the partnership between Harbin and Minneapolis will be especially beneficial to both cities in the years to come.

Harbin’s economy is based on industry, particularly car manufacturing. As clean energy becomes a prominent subject of interest in Minneapolis, our cities can work together to share the research and technology to produce cars that run on alternative energy. Architecture is another important area in which Harbin and Minneapolis can exchange ideas. My father was honored by the welcome extended to him by the city of Harbin, and looks forward to working with Harbin in the future.

Throughout the rest of the trip, we students discovered that, as my father said, the relationship between China and America is very important now and will grow increasingly more so, as we prepare for college studies and careers in our future. This trip not only enhanced our knowledge of Chinese culture, but deepened our understanding.  We have all discovered a newfound dedication to our study of Mandarin, and many of us are eager to return to China to study or work in the future.

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CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Our goal is to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and business environments and to foster U.S.-China cultural and business harmony.