U event connects students by video

Minnesota has the fifth-highest number of high school students studying Chinese.

Josh Verges

Hundreds of students at the Beijing Royal Military School clapped to the beat as Breck School’s Pat McCarthy sang for them in Chinese.

The song, seen and heard via videoconference, was one of several events at the University’s third annual China Day.

“The best part about China Day is bringing students together from all different walks of life,” said Sarah Joy Rinkenberger, the China Center’s program coordinator.

And she was just talking about the rare assembly of students from Minnesota high schools.

Some 400 students from Breck School, Minneapolis South, St. Paul Central, Highland Park and Minnetonka gathered Friday at Coffman Union.

Minneapolis South sophomore Annie Nolting said she began studying Chinese in fifth grade at Breck School in Golden Valley, Minn., where every other class of students studied Chinese.

Nolting said she became interested in Chinese as a young girl because her nannies were Chinese. She said she hopes knowing Chinese could help her in a journalism career.

The Chinese television station CCTV taped the videoconference and will air the events next month on a program called “Meet China.” The show reaches 900 million people in 100 countries, Rinkenberger said.

After the Chinese students demonstrated a learning game called “Who am I?,” five Minnesota students practiced sentences using the Chinese verb for “to play.”

The Chinese station’s interpreter translated one Minnesota high school student’s sentence as “I love to play skiing.”

Despite puzzled looks from the Chinese audience, the

Minnesota students cheered wildly after each classmate’s sentence.

China Center Director Hong Yang said the day is designed to encourage the study of the Chinese language and support the University’s extensive Chinese programs.

Minnesota has the fifth-most total high school students enrolled in Chinese classes in the country, and the University has between 250 and 300 students studying Chinese, he said.

Yang said he hopes China Day events will also foster international relations.

“Some of these students here could be very important to building bridges between the U.S and China,” he said.

After the videoconference, recent University graduate Ryan Johnson presented a series of photographs from his trip to Tianjin, China, as an exchange student.

“It was like doing everything I did in the United States, but with a little twist,” he said.

Unlike past China Day speakers, Johnson did a good job of relating to the students, Rinkenberger said.

“I think the students really enjoyed him this year,” she said.

After Johnson’s presentation, Chicago Chinese Consulate representatives Zhou Hong Qing and Xiong Sheng treated the students to lunch at local Asian restaurants.

Though organizers practiced for the videoconference on Thursday, students here watched a frozen screen for most of the conversation and, at times, heard two or three audio feeds.

But Yang used these setbacks as opportunities to encourage the students in the audience.

“Work on that so we don’t have this problem 10 years from now,” he told them.

Yang said the China Center is planning another event for the fall semester. He said he hopes to bring 800 middle school students to the University to tour the campus and hear college students talk about their experiences in China.