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Nine AISD Students Will Learn Mandarin in China This Summer

Shanghai is the largest city in China with more than 23 million residents.
Photo by tyler_haglund
Shanghai is the largest city in China with more than 23 million residents.

With China poised to become the world’s economic leader within the next few decades, learning Mandarin might not be such a bad idea. And if you really want a jump start, try immersing yourself among the 23 million people who occupy China's largest city, Shanghai. That's what nine local high school students will be doing for six weeks this summer. 

Seven of the students are from Eastside Memorial Global Tech High School and two are from the Academy for Global Studies at Austin High. All of them have been studying Mandarin for at least a year and scored well enough in a competitive process to get their ticket to Shanghai. They will be accompanied by two teacher-chaperones.

The trip is being paid for by a $60,000 grant from the US State Department and an $11,000 grant from a local non-profit startup, the International Education Fund. The IEF is focused on giving study abroad opportunities to socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

“The statistical profile of your typical study abroad student would be your white, college female in her junior year going somewhere in Europe,” IEF director Michael Stone told KUT News. “We’re trying to really do two things: broaden the population base who is able to participate in study abroad, and also diversify the destinations where students go.”

The students will spend four hours a day receiving Mandarin lessons at East China Normal University. The rest of their time will be spent exploring the sights and sounds and tastes of Chinese culture. They will also do some community service projects. One weekend will be spent staying with a host family.

The State Department will test students’ Mandarin skills before they leave and after they come back to measure the progress students make while living in an immersive environment. Students will also have to produce a final portfolio when they get back.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.