Tuesday, November 7, 2017

China Trip 2017

Below is a summary of our trip to China as we toured educational facilities throughout China and promoted American Education, the Northland Pines School District, Nicolet College and the Wisconsin International Student Program (WISP) partnership.

China Trip October 27 - November 5, 2017

Team members included:
1.      Mike Richie, District Administrator Northland Pines School District
2.      David Weber, School Board Member, NPSD and Business Owner
3.      Kate Ferrel, Vice President of Student Affairs, Nicolet College
4.      Di Wu, Instructional Designer, Nicolet College
5.      Xiaodong Kuang, WISP Executive Director
6.      Jack Palmer, WISP Vice President
7.      Simon Shi , WISP Investment Partner (Simon lives in Beijing and met us there)

Travel Distance:
Drove from Eagle River to Chicago 350 miles
Flew from Chicago to Beijing 6,603 miles
Round trip drive from Beijing to Great Wall 100 miles
Bullet train round trip from Beijing to Langfang 98 miles
Flew from Beijing to Wuhan 655 miles
Round trip drive from Wuhan to Boy Scout Camp 150 miles
Flew from Wuhan to Chengdu 607 miles
Flew from Chengdu to Wuxi 963 miles
Drove from Wuxi to Shanghai 95 miles
Flew from Shanghai to Chicago 7,087 miles
Drove home from Chicago to Eagle River 350 miles
Total miles traveled during trip 17,058

Population and links of the Chinese cities we visited:
  1. Beijing - 21.7 million  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing
  2. Langfang – 4.35 million  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langfang
  3. Wuhan – 10.6 million  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuhan
  4. Chengdu – 14.42 million  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chengdu
  5. Wuxi – 6.37 million  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuxi
  6. Shanghai  - 24.15 million  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai 
China Population - 1.4 Billion
US Population - 345 Million
Wisconsin Population 5.44 million
Eagle River 1,398

Largest Cities in US
New York City 8.17 million
Los Angeles 3.79 million
Chicago 2.69 million

Friday, October 27th:
The team left Chicago O’Hare Airport on Friday, October 27, 2017 on a 12:30 pm United Airline Flight for the 7000 mile 14 hour flight. We landed in Beijing at 3:00 pm Saturday afternoon    October 28th. China has one time zone and is 13 hours ahead of Central Time Zone.

Saturday, October 28th:
On the plane we read, watched movies and prepared our presentation for the trip, tried to sleep a little but it was difficult. We will be doing 13 presentations and school tours over the next 8 days, along with some site seeing. When we landed it was 3:00 p.m. Saturday, October 28th, in Beijing. Once at the airport we went through customs and exchanged our US money for Chinese money...YUAN. The Exchange rate was about 6.2. So $20 in the US is worth $3.22 and $100 US is worth $16.12

We stayed in Beijing for 3 nights at the Beijing RHX Courtyard Hotel.
Saturday evening we enjoyed a great Chinese dinner at Beijing DaLong Roast Duck Restaurant. Alisha’s (our WISP student) parents met us at the hotel and had dinner with us as well. They expressed their gratitude to everyone that is making Alicia’s education experience at Northland Pines a success.  

Sunday, October 29th:
Got a great night sleep as we were very tired. Walked to McDonald’s in the morning for a cup of coffee. In China, tea and warm water are the drinks of choice. It can be difficult to find coffee.

We did two presentations on Sunday. One at the Global Family and Children Recruiting Agency. This presentation was done virtually as 300 families across China were listening to the presentation. Our second presentation was at the Physical Education University of Beijing. Both presentations went very well. We walked to a restaurant for dinner and called it an early evening as we were all exhausted.

Monday, October 30th:
Got up early and headed to the Great Wall of China! It was about an hour and half drive from the hotel. The traffic and driving is crazy; there is no other way to explain it. Constant beeping of horns, drivers do not use signals, cut each other off all the time, and utilize alleys as main roads, park anywhere they see fit. The other difficult part of driving is that you have mopeds and bikes weaving in and out of traffic in both directions. This is extremely dangerous.  Many people in China do not drive because it is so difficult and there is literally nowhere to park! It is unbelievable! Our driver Simon did an incredible job getting us there and back.
Great Wall of Chinahttp://www.great-wallofchina.com/

The Great Wall of China was an incredible experience and chance of a life time. We climbed for about 45 minutes, took some great pictures and videos. Definitely worth the visit! I cannot  imagine constructing this structure.

We had to hustle back for a 2:00 p.m. meeting at the US Embassy for a meeting with Nancy Chen, First Secretary Education Officer and a few staff members. It is hard to imagine we visited the Great Wall of China and the US Embassy in the same day! We had to show passports to get in to the Embassy and even after doing so, it was difficult to get in. No computers, Ipads or backpacks allowed. We were able to bring in our phones but could not take any pictures.

The focus of the meeting was to introduce WISP to the Embassy staff and make them aware of why WISP is different than other international programs with our 3 plus 2 program concept. The meeting went very well as they now have a good understanding of our WISP program. They also shared some ideas with us on how our students will have a better chance of getting their Visa’s approved at the Embassy.
Embassy of the United States of America:

We ate dinner at a restaurant called Hot Pot. You had your dish and burner in front of you on a big table, and you ordered a broth for the soup off the menu. They brought out many meats, vegetables, and other food items and you put it in your own soup as you like. It cooked in front of you and you dished it out (yes with chop sticks).  It was very good.

Tuesday, October 31st:
This was the toughest day of our trip so far. We got up early so David and I could WeChat with the Northland Pines School Board members at the School Board Meeting. Due to the time change, 7:00 a.m. in China on Tuesday morning is really 6:00 p.m. Monday evening back in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It was great that David and I could chat with the Board about our experiences here in China, as they were 7,000 miles away. We gave the Board a quick report about what we were doing and what we observed during our presentations.

Left our hotel and headed to the subway station. Today we will have traveled by foot, subway (twice), bullet train, car and plane.
We toured Huayou Rudder Primary School, a K-6 building in Langfang, did a morning presentation to a group of parents and school administrators regarding the WISP program. Had a great lunch with a dozen people including the principal and Chairman of the Board of Huayou Rudder Primary School.

Late afternoon we visited a 21st Century English Education Media Newspaper back in Beijing. This paper is printed in English. Focus is on:
1.      English education solution provider - print media, online media, teaching research, projects, and student training.
2.      Print media - student media, high school edition, senior and junior international public speaking ranging from preschool to college
3.      English Language International Teaching Conference
4.      Think like Elite Forum
5.      Chinese and Foreign Principals interaction
6.      Paper also includes bilingual student reporters network, editorial department
7.      Paper would like to do a follow up story of our WISP student Alicia regarding her school year in USA. Also, they encourage Alicia to submit writings to the paper.
21st Century English Newspaper Beijing China:
 Took the subway to the Beijing airport and caught the 7:25 pm flight to Wuhan. This was a 2 hour and 20 minute flight. Spent two nights in Wuhan stayed at the Lamtin Longwin Hotel. This was a very nice hotel and really enjoyed the morning breakfast the hotel provided. It was great because they had coffee there. We were able to enjoy eggs, toast and fruit. They did also have cereal but the milk was warm. The Chinese drink most of their drinks hot or warm. The breakfast also included noodles, rice, and lots of vegetables, which is very common in China for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner.

Wednesday, November 1st:
After breakfast at the hotel, we drove about 2 hours to an area in Wuhan that is being developed into an Ecological Culture Town in Tuanfeng; we toured the site. The purpose of this endeavor is to serve as a Boy Scout/Educational Camp along with an exclusive family resort area with an environmental, natural resources focus. This is very unique to China as there is not much land available to construct a site like this. Most land in China is leased which is the case as well for this parcel of land. The investors of this project are very interested in our WISP program. We were treated to an organic lunch where everything we ate was grown on the land with no preservatives added. We exchanged gifts before we left which is a Chinese tradition when guests are present.

Wednesday evening we gave a presentation to students and parents at a business office in a high rise building. Parents asked many good questions. The message was loud and clear from the parents that Chinese students get way too much homework and the school day is way too long, not uncommon for a school day to begin at 7:00 or 7:30 am and end at 4:00 or 5:00 pm, and then add 3 hours of homework. The parents and students do not like this. Lots of stress is put on the students. Students from all grade levels will stay up until midnight working on homework.

After our presentation I did an interview with a Chinese television station.
The focus of the interview was defining the key differences between the Chinese and US Educational system, the purpose of the trip and what makes our school district so successful.

Thursday, November 2nd:
We had a very busy day today. We took the subway to Wuhan Experimental Foreign Language School; this school houses elementary, middle and high school students. It serves over 5,000 students. We had a meeting with the principal and a few other staff members, did a presentation and toured the school. This was a great experience as this is one of the top schools in China. 
Of the 5,000 students, 1,700 are elementary students.

This school is a public school, yet students must apply for admission. They receive over 7,000 applicants per year for admission. The staff consists of over 200 of the best teachers in China. The focus is on the English language. Foreigners also attend to learn Chinese as well. Students must reapply to remain in the school once they hit middle school and again at high school. This school was a private school but is now a public school. It is governed by the ministry or agency from within the district (Wuhan). Many students live at school in a dorm, including first graders because they travel so far to get to school.

Homework here is much different than the other Chinese schools, as a lot of the focus at this school is on the well-being of student and less emphasis is placed on homework. Some students still take the Gaokao (national college exam) or study abroad or get recruited from other colleges. Many students from here go to the top universities in China.  The students here are required to participate in clubs or activities, again very different from most schools in China.

After we left the school we took the subway back to a business center and then went to lunch with administrators from a private school, and their headquarters administrators. Again we talked education public verses private and about our educational strengths in the US. We left Wuhan and took a 6:30 flight to Chengdu. Had a great flight to Chengdu and the hotel was awesome! We stayed at the InterContinental Hotel. When we looked out our hotel window, we looked directly at the New Century Global Center which is the largest building by square footage in the world. The size of this building is over 18 million square feet. It is an amazing structure and site!

Wuhan Experimental Foreign Language School


New Century Global Center

Friday, November 3rd:
Had a wonderful BIG breakfast at the hotel and then off to an office complex where we met with the general manager, Juli ZHU and her staff of the Sichuan Hongtu Shengda Overseas Affairs Service. This is a recruiting agency that places students in overseas educational opportunities. This is a very successful company that has placed students in excellent high schools and as a result those students have attended very prestigious universities all over the World. We explained the WISP program to this team and how it is different than other international programs.

We walked to lunch in downtown Chengdu. After lunch we drove to and toured at No 1 Experimental Middle School Attached to Sichuan Normal University. We had a meeting with the principal and talked about education and the WISP program. This is a new private 7-8 grade boarding school. Phase 2 will include high school in 2019. About 1,000 7th and 8th graders attend and over 10,000 students apply per year to get in. The admission rate is about 10%. Very young teaching staff. The focus of this school is much like American schools. Less homework, emphasis on academics, clubs, activities and sports. Dave and I were able to play pin-pong with one of the students here.

Xiaodong, Jack and I addressed the students in the auditorium and showed them the Northland Pines video and Alicia’s video of what her typical day is like. We discussed the difference between the American educational system and the traditional Chinese system. This school was incredible.

Our third stop, tour and presentation of the day was at Huayang Vocational High School. This is a 10-12 grade high school with an enrollment of 1,765 students located in the Tianfu New District which was founded in 1985. The school has 193 staff members. They offer 53 classes within six majors. Students pick a major of study and focus their career within that major.

1. Marketing
2. Computers Network
3. Infinite Education
4. High-class hotel management
5. Mechanical Technology
6. Electronics Appliance

This is a great model and it provides an opportunity for students that may not go on to college and want to focus on a career. It also allows for opportunity for the students to continue post-secondary training in their specific career area.

Saturday, November 4th:
Got up at 4 am and headed to the Chengdu airport and flew to Wuxi. Had to wait over an hour on tarmac due to very heavy fog/smog.

Once we landed in Wuxi, we visited the Wuxi Foreign Language School. This is a public school that serves students in grades 1-12 with an enrollment of about 7,000 students over four campuses. This is also a boarding school for most of the students. Very high achieving school and score high on the Gaokao. Quality teachers and school has won many awards.

International Division established in 2014 has introduced the international curriculum. 70% Chinese education and 30% international curriculum. China is trying to reform education; however, only a few schools each year are allowed to reform.

I was honored to sign a partnership agreement between the Northland Pines School District and the Wuxi Foreign Language School. Our two schools will work in collaboration and share resources to help each other grow in education.  http://www.wxfls.net/

Had lunch with the administrative team and then checked in to hotel. Stayed at the Grand Park Hotel in Wuxi. Finally had 2 hours of free time, so we took a taxi to a market area in Wuxi. This was a historic area on Nanchang Street and its history can be traced back to the 10th century AD. It was a post road set up in the northern Song Dynasty. It connects Suzhou in the south, Changzhou in the north and parallels with the water courier route Ancient Canal. This street has  many little shops and restaurants.

Before we headed back to the hotel, we were treated to a boat ride through the canal in Wuxi by Laurence. Laurence owns an agency that places Chinese students in other international programs like WISP.
Nanchang Street in Wuxi
Sunday, November 5th:
Left hotel at 10:15 a.m. and headed to the Shanghai airport; it was about a 2.5 hour drive by van. Had lunch in the airport and met with one last potential recruiter named Alex who does business in both the US and China. Alex’s daughter attends Madison Edgewood High School in Madison, WI. She is hoping to attend Duke next year.


Travel in China
As I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult to drive in China because of the large cities and volume of vehicles. People tend to honk their horns all the time as a way of communicating on the road. It’s difficult to understand who has the right of way. Bikes and mopeds are two popular ways people travel in China. While here we traveled by foot, car, taxi, subway, bullet train, boat and plane.

Food in China
The food in China can take some getting used to. Chinese people tend to eat a lot! The meals take a very long time to eat and can last up to 2 hours or longer. Vegetables, noodles, meats and soups are popular for all three meals even breakfast. We have witnessed some very different foods on this trip: chicken feet, duck feet, pig feet, rabbit head, duck tongue, and 100 year old egg to mention a few.  Tea and warm water are the main drinks. Milk was even served warm. Coffee can be hard to find. The food comes out and is placed on the table on a big circular glass platter that spins. As you sit at the table you simply very gently spin the platter and take the food you want. The food can be a bit spicy and the meats are smoked. They leave the heads on fish as it is served. Many toasts and cheers are given throughout lunch and dinner.



People in China
The people in China were amazing! Everyone we met was extremely friendly. They could not do enough for us and their hospitality was something I will never forget. Facebook, FaceTime Google, Twitter, Instagram and Blogs are all prohibited in China. WeChat is the main social media platform; everyone has it. Our entire team loaded it on our phones before we left the US and we used it quite often. It is like texting, Facebook, FaceTime, Twitter, Apple Pay, and Google all in one. It’s used in lieu of credit cards and also serves as an I-pass for the toll roads. Smog and the lack of clean water tend to still be two major obstacles for the country. Hundreds of sky scrapers were being constructed while we were there. The number of cranes you see is unbelievable.



We had great weather; it was in the 60’s the entire trip, did not rain at all and there was very little smog. We did not have to wear our masks once! Overall the trip was very productive as we introduced our WISP program to students, parents, administrators, the US Embassy, TV station, newspaper and recruiting agencies. Needless to say, the schedule was action packed and grueling with very little down time. Had a great flight back to Chicago. Returned home at 12:30 a.m. Monday, November 5th.

Looking forward to our WeChat conversations with our new friends in China over 7,000 miles away and our partnership between the Northland Pines School District and Wuxi Foreign Language School.

Short Video's of China 2017 Trip:

                                                                 Classroom Singing 

                                                              Great Wall of China 

                                                       Dave Weber Playing Ping Pong 

                                                         Crossing Street in Beijing 

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