(CNN) – American teenagers in Beijing are helping to bolster the bond between the U.S. and China. It’s part of a study-abroad program that aims to make sure the next generation of Americans and Chinese can engage effectively with each other.
This school is packed with teens from across America, juniors and seniors spending a full year abroad in China. American student Anthony Box said, “In the beginning it was really challenging, I was just not used to the tones and the different dialects.”
Arlington, Virginia native Box is here to master Mandarin, Chinese history, and even music, though the two-stringed urhu is pretty tricky.
The School Year Abroad program allows American students to come to China and be to be totally immersed in the culture, but in a way, it’s also teenage diplomacy. Both the U.S. and China hope that human interaction and understanding can help their sometimes frosty relationship.
At age 17, Anthony already gets it. “We are the newer generation, so when we get older, we are going to have to deal with all these problems and stuff, so it will be really great to experience the world, so we know what to deal with.” He says he learns more outside of the classroom, where Anthony commutes just like a Beijinger.
He lives with a Chinese family, and calls his Chinese host mother ‘mom’. Before joining the program, Wang Zhang had never spent much time with Americans. Now she has hosted three. She said, “This is close personal interaction, these boys have become like my own children.”
Anthony’s life will be all about China for a year. He hopes to carry the lessons he learns for a lifetime.