Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Holy Angels Sophomore Makes Connection with 'Family' in China

Demarest, NJ: “Family” extends far beyond groups of people with common ancestors. As Linda (Xinhui) Lin discovered during culture camp in China, family is about the connections humans throughout the world share with each other.

This summer, Lin joined a group of American-born Chinese teens and teens who were born in China and study in the United States. Together, they spent 14 days visiting three cities in Jiangsu Province: Nanjing, Yancheng, and Dongtai. The group also spent time with nine local Chinese students.

“Even though I grew up in China, I never explored the country and learned the culture outside of the classroom,” Lin said.

During a Chinese calligraphy lesson in the city of Yancheng, Lin made a powerful discovery.

“The teacher taught us how to write ‘We are family’ in Chinese calligraphy style. These words are meaningful. Although we were born in different countries, we are all Chinese; we are family. Also, when we were trying to write the words, we helped each other, chatted with the Chinese local students, and all had a good time,” Lin recalled.

The calligraphy lesson was one of many cultural highlights of the trip, which was organized by Chinese language schools in the United States, China’s educational organizations, and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. The camp also included a service element that allowed the group to help children with disabilities at the Children’s Welfare Institute in Yancheng.

“We separated into groups and rotated activities every 30 minutes. We played games, colored, and helped them with their exercises. At the end, we exchanged presents with them. Although we spent just two hours there with the kids, it felt wonderful knowing that I had made a difference,” Lin said of her visit to the institute.

During the group’s visit to Nanjing, the former capital of China, the culture camp participants viewed the sculpture, calligraphy, art, and architecture featured in the city’s museum. Lin said she especially enjoyed a display that replicated a street from the Republic of China Era.

The group’s stay in Nanjing included a visit to the Youth Olympic Center and participation in a solemn commemoration of the Rape of Nanjing, a large-scale massacre that occurred during the Sino-Japanese War.

“As I walked around the memorials commemorating the lives of civilians and soldiers alike, an overwhelming sadness came over me,” Lin noted. “Nanjing is well-known for its history of prosperity, but also its violent past. It serves as a reminder today for people to prevent tragedies like the Rape of Nanjing from happening again.”

While in Yancheng, the group studied Chinese language and culture with local secondary school students. They also visited the Water Margin Culture Museum. Lin explained that “Water Margin” is one of four great classical novels by Yancheng native Shi Naian.

In Dongtai, the students explored the region’s natural sites, including Yellow Sea Forest Park, one of the largest national parks in eastern China.

“Because I grew up in a city, I had never experienced China’s incredible natural sites firsthand. I felt a sense of wonder as I walked around the massive reserve.”
Lin said that learning about China’s animals and nature for the first time at Yellow Sea Forest Park and Dafeng Elk National Nature Reserve was inspirational and eye-opening.

At Yancheng Secondary School, the group gave Chinese children a look at American history and culture, and education and clubs in American schools.

“My topic was about the differences between Chinese education and American education. The most obvious difference I found was that China’s schools have a strong focus on exams, while American schools offer a more holistic education,” Lin reported.

Lin is originally from Suzhou, which she describes as a beautiful garden city near Shanghai. She drew a parallel between Suzhou and her new hometown of Tenafly, located in the Garden State. This new international student said she transferred to AHA because she believes that students in girls’ high schools develop greater confidence and independence than their counterparts in coed schools.

This student, who was clearly inspired by her journey, added, “In the future, I would like to have more opportunities to travel and gain insights into other countries and cultures.”

Since 1879, thousands of women have passed through the portals of Academy of the Holy Angels high school, the oldest private girls’ school in New Jersey. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. Our goal is to provide each girl with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and giving service to others.

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