Yelin Zhang said that back at her home in China, only adults can afford to bowl.
“This was my first time bowling,” the high schooler from Anqing said with a smile Thursday as she recounted her trip to the lanes in Steamboat Springs last week.
She also described the joy of horseback riding and the “interesting” American food she’s been consuming for the first time.
She and 20 other high school-age students from China were here in the Yampa Valley last week to attend The Lowell Whiteman School’s inaugural Steamboat Summer Academy.
Lowell Whiteman teacher Brian Smith, who is coordinating the camp, said the two-week program is the next step in his campus’s effort to establish a two-way cultural connection with the growing Pacific nation.
In Steamboat, the Chinese students are balancing their time between outdoor excursions and classroom lessons that teach them about American history and culture. They also are working with Whiteman’s ESL teacher to improve their English.
“Everybody recognizes China is growing quite a bit. They are a strong nation,” Smith said. “It’s good for us to be able to have communication with them and for them to have communication with us. Our students can start to interact with a generation they will probably start to work alongside later on.”
A barbecue Monday at the campus also allowed the visitors to mingle with Steamboat high school students.
In addition to the summer exchange program, Lowell Whiteman will welcome more Chinese students into its classrooms next school year.
In January, Jiacong Kyle Wu arrived at Whiteman from Quingdao, China, to finish his high school education in the Yampa Valley.
The school plans to welcome a few other Chinese students in the fall.
In a foreign land
Since they arrived last week, the 21 Chinese students and their three chaperones have toured the Yampa River Botanic Park, biked on the Yampa River Core Trail and experienced Art in the Park.
Adapting to life in the mountains has been easy, two of the students’ teachers from China said.
On Thursday, about half of the students followed Yampatika naturalist Tom Kelly on a short walk along the trails near the Fairview neighborhood.
Holding up a clear glass bottle containing a tiny insect, Kelly told the students about what the pine beetle has done to Colorado’s forests. Later on the tour, he watched as the students eagerly consumed their first serviceberries.
All of the students had cameras and smartphones at the ready and eagerly chronicled every stop of the trip.
“It’s really, really beautiful beyond my imagination,” student Sejan Wu said after the hike that ended at Steamboat’s Lithia Springs. “We live in the city. It’s very difficult for us to do these kind of things.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com