Four young women from Verona spent more than two weeks traveling through China this summer with the Rutgers Confucius Institute.
Natalie DeRosa, Kelly Hogan, Shelly Herman and Frances Metzger along with 20 other students from New Jersey attended the bridge camp with students from around the country.
They visited ancient temples in Beijing, the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, Hunan University in Chang Sha, which is famous for spicy food, and heard lectures on folk art, Hunan Opera, Tapestry, Chrysanthemum Stone Carving and other subjects. They also studied calligraphy, paper cutting, dance and language.
Students were paired with host families and experienced daily life, going shopping, creating crafts and more, said Natalie, who made dumplings with her host family.
“Many students became really good friends with their host families,” she said. “So much so that they would return throughout the trip to visit us and take us out to the city with them. My host family still emails me now.”
Natalie said the students were quite popular with the locals.
“In China, people often want to take pictures with American Tourists. Everywhere we went people stopped us for pictures or just snapping them while we weren't looking. They are quite fascinated with our features,” she said. “All the girls were constantly reminded how beautiful they were and the guys how handsome. Needless to say, we all felt a confidence boost.”
They did get a taste of home, sort of, stopping at a Pizza Hut. Only Pizza Huts in China serve escargot and other French food.
“I highly recommend to high school students in New Jersey to apply to this program through Rutgers,” Natalie said. “It was so much fun and it was simply amazing. It really was life changing.”