Global Experiential Learning: A better understanding of China and its culture

Nick Brigati '20 was one of four Landon students and three girls from neighboring schools that spent part of their summer participating in Landon's global education program in China. Here is a blog post that Nick wrote about his time of cultural exploration and language immersion.

While sitting at home doing my homework during the middle of winter, I received an email from my Chinese teacher about the Landon in China program. As I first read through it, I was filled with excitement and enthusiasm at the idea of going to China for three weeks, but I also had some mixed feelings. I was worried that I would miss a whole month of summer away from home and would not see my friends and family for such a long period of time. But with some encouragement and convincing from my parents I decided to go on the trip, and I must say I do not regret my decision.

Most importantly, I was lucky to have great host families in the three cities we visited. They made me feel like I was part of the family and took the time to show me their city and culture. By the end of each week, I truly felt like I knew what their daily lives were like and how people go about their lives in China. I also felt like they knew a little more about life in the United States.

Beijing, the first city we visited, was a great experience for me because my host parents spoke little to no English, so I was able to practice my speaking the whole time I was there. At first, I was a little uncomfortable speaking only Chinese, especially because I speak it so rarely. My host family was extremely helpful though, and within a few days, I became much more comfortable speaking the language.

I also loved Beijing because of all the famous sites we visited. Home to the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and Temple of Heaven, there were so many cool and exciting places to see each day. My favorite of all the sites in Beijing was definitely the Great Wall. Simply standing atop the structure, looking at the wall that spanned thousands of miles across China, atop mountains and through deserts, left me in awe. I liked Beijing a lot and really enjoyed my time there despite the traffic. However, I was excited to travel to the next city.

Compared to Beijing, Chengdu had a lot less people and more spicy food than in Beijing. Also, Chengdu was where Potato Chen (Potato is his chosen English name) lived. Potato was my host brother who came to live with me for two weeks in January, and is one of the main reasons why I decided to go on the trip. I was really glad to see him again and meet his whole family who were all very nice and welcoming.

Each night they took me out to dinner to try the spicy foods that Chengdu and the Sichuan region are so well known for. My favorite of these foods was definitely the hot pot, where there is a bowl of hot oils and spices in the middle of the table and you dip meats and vegetables into it. Any trip to China should include trying hot pot, as it was easily my favorite dish while there. Not only did Chengdu have great food, but it was also home to many cool sites such as the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Mount Qingcheng (birthplace of Taoism), and the Leshan Giant Buddha.

After spending seven days in Chengdu I was ready to say my goodbyes to Potato and the spicy foods of the region and see a new and exciting city: Shanghai. Shanghai was a very different city from the other two, resembling Western cities such as New York or Chicago. My host family there was very nice and spoke English, which was a relaxing break from constantly speaking Chinese. The buildings there were massive and colorful, and were especially beautiful to see at night when we went on a river cruise and they were all lit up. Easily my favorite part of Shanghai was being able to eat dinner at the top the Oriental Pearl Tower with my host family on the first day. Eating dinner at 1,000 feet overlooking the whole city was an incredible experience and was a great way to start my visit there.

Overall, the trip was easily one of the coolest and most fun experiences in my life, and was extremely beneficial to me both in my Chinese language studies and as a person. I feel that by actually speaking it while there and being there in that environment allowed me to improve my speaking skills, listening skills and vocabulary tremendously over the course of three weeks.

Also, being able to see how people live in China and learn about how different their culture was extremely eye opening for me, and definitely made me more open-minded and accepting of other cultures. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in China and tell them that they should take advantage of this opportunity because visiting China may not be the easiest trip to take, but by doing so they will be taking part in one of the most memorable experiences of their lives.

Landon's global education program also features experiential learning trips to Spain, Belize, and Costa Rica. The 2019 Landon-in-China co-ed cultural exploration and language immersion program is scheduled for July 9-31 and is open to all students currently in grades 8-12. The first informational meeting is January 10. For more information about Landon-in-China, please click here or contact Upper School Chinese teacher and Director of the Chinese Scholastic Exchange Program Xiaohong Yang Herrle at