From Kindergarten to KTV

By Jill Grifenhagen


The China Tour delegation had an eye-opening, enlightening, and fun day exploring Suzhou!

We started by visiting Suzhou Zenhua Middle School. This school is more than 100 years old but just became a public school (one of the top middle schools in the province) in 2010. The building and school are rich with surprises, including an impressive stone “torch, modern classrooms, and a historic temple. We were treated to a tour from the school’s principal, enthusiastic greetings from the middle school students, a Chinese poetry lesson, and tea and discussion about the school’s history and policies.

Our next stop was Tien Cheng Kindergarten, where we received a warm reception! The students here are 3-6 years old, and the school is a bright, joyful place for learning. We were serenaded with Chinese songs, observed children engaged in learning through play, and we were invited into creative play with the children. These beautiful little ones, their caring teachers and principal, and the happy environment were highlights of everyone’s day.

For lunch, we joined Mr. Ge of the Wuzhong Group for another impressive Chinese feast around another large round table. This time, we visited the hotel on the Ruiyi Chunxili retirement community complex. We enjoyed another spectacular, delicious meal, and we learned more about the business and philanthropic ventures of the Wuzhong Group.


This afternoon we finally got to meet the students of SNA! We started the afternoon off with a presentation and panel discussion on American university admissions and life. The students then chose from one of two breakout groups: programming robots with Mark and his “Spheros”, or exploring nanotechnology with Gail and her graduate students. I loved interacting with the students and seeing them engage with new technologies and materials.

Our new friends from SNA–the administrative group as well as the foreign teachers–joined us for a night on the town in Suzhou! We dined and got to know each other better at a colorful Thai restaurant. The evening concluded with what must be a right of passage in China–KTV (or karaoke!) Most of us had never experienced anything like “Hello Party!” where we sang a wide variety of songs in our own private room. Everyone let loose a little and got in on the fun. I think most of us wish we had karaoke like this in the US!

Now, we’re tired, and it’s off to bed…tomorrow’s another early morning!