Wayne County High School students who are enrolled in the Craft Academy at Morehead State University are reaping great rewards from their high achieving academic experience. Take Natalie Hutchinson, 17, a Wayne County High School student that is a senior at Craft Academy. She not only fulfilled her Language Arts requirements for high school, as well as adding a Chinese History class to her resume, but she has experienced the trip of a lifetime studying for six weeks in China this past summer.
Hutchinson, the daughter of Valerie and Scott Hutchinson, wants to eventually become an aerospace engineer, but in the meantime, she is excited to be learning things in an environment where all the students want to be academically challenged by rigorous coursework.
“I love languages,” said Hutchinson, as she explained how she had learned some everyday language in Chinese to help her assimilate into the culture. She also managed to understand the two Chinese language teachers she studied under who barely spoke English. She found out she had a knack for translating. She wants to learn French next.
The trip was a result of a partnership between Morehead State University and Tianjin Normal University in China. Natalie seized the opportunity right from the start of her junior year at Craft Academy. During orientation, she remembered seeing promotional photos about the trip. She learned the trip would fulfill a Language Arts requirement, which peaked her interest. She attended the first meeting to investigate the possibility and that led to monthly meetings about the study abroad opportunity. The two-hour meetings taught her some basic Chinese, rules of the country, manners and the lifestyle, and even how to use chopsticks.
After utilizing the skills she has learned, she enjoys using chopsticks instead of silverware.
By her departure date on May 14, Natalie was feeling pretty good about adapting to life in China, even though it was all the way across the globe. Fifteen students and university staff made the trip. She and a roommate lived in a hotel that was adjacent to the university branch where they were taking classes. They were inside a gated area that closed at 11:00 p.m. each night. During the day, the students could walk or take the subway to their destinations.
One of her first assignments was to go to the local McDonald’s and order ice cream without speaking English. She looked at the picture menu that helped her learn Chinese words. By the end of their stay, she could say ‘medium or large or here or to go’ in Chinese when she placed an order.
They made several day trips and The Great Wall was the most meaningful. She observed the Century Towers where she walked between them along the wall. “It’s a massive wall on top of a giant mountain,” Natalie said. “We had watched a documentary about it in class ahead of time, so we knew the history of it.”
Other highlights she saw included The Forbidden City (which is across from Tiamen Square), the Eye of Tianjin where she took a riverboat ride under a huge massive ferris wheel in Tingen (the fourth or fifth largest city in the country). She spent four days In Beijing, where she saw The Summer Palace, complete with a man-made lake and courtyards, plus paddle boat rides. She saw ornate temples and an acrobatic show in Beijing.
She said the Chinese food was really good, but the air quality made her throat feel scratchy. She said there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant within walking distance from her school. She enjoyed eating at a restaurant that served dinner with the help of a hot pot. “You have a burner and you heat up broth until it is really hot. Then you drop your meat and veggies in – sort of like fondue.”
Another memorable restaurant was a place where the noodles were made in front of the patrons. ”They made long noodles and then we cut them up and put them in our pots. ”We got noodle lessons, just like you would learn to toss a pizza,” laughed Natalie.
“Down the road from our hotel was the ‘Cat Café” that served teas and coffee. There were cats everywhere,” recalled Natalie.
She took classes and made all A’s, complete with a transcript in Chinese totaling nine credits.
They broke the academics up with a couple of entertaining outings where they rented a large karaoke room, complete with a big television and two microphones. They called it KTV. Eight students would take turns picking a song on a tablet and see the lyrics come up on the screen where they could sing really loud.
“We loved it,” said Natalie.
In fact, she was really happy with the entire experience. Living overseas helped Natalie realize people residing in other countries have different opinions and cultures. It put things into perspective for her regarding the world stage, as well as what to appreciate in her own country.
Tianjin TV Tower in the day
Tianjin TV Tower up close during night with illuminating lights at the base
City of Tianjin from the top of the Tianjin TV Tower
Natalie Hutchinson on the Great Wall
The gate of the Forbidden City
The Eye of Tianjin
A decorative gate at the Summer Palace
Temple of Heaven