Craig students attend international conference in China
JANESVILLE — Nichole Wilson, a senior at Craig High School, didn't know what to expect when she boarded a plane to spend 10 days in China.
Now that she's back, she wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
"Their culture is so different than ours," Wilson said. "I didn't know what to expect, but it was way better than I imagined. They are very friendly and understanding people."
Wilson, along with six classmates and Craig teacher Albert (Fritz) Elsen, participated in the 2014 Global Student Leaders Summit in Shanghai before traveling to Beijing and Shenyang. They returned from their trip Sunday.
"There were so many smart people in the same room," Nick Schieldt, senior at Craig, said. "It was intimidating at first, but we learned a lot. No one at the table had the same background."
The summit consisted of 800 students, 600 Americans and Europeans and 200 Chinese students. The topic was socially responsible business practices. Students were broken into groups and had to create business plans and inventions in the areas of environment, human safety, education and human rights that fit into the summit's theme. The ideas were meant to improve each student's own country in the four categories.
"My group had a guy from Italy, two Chinese students and Americans," Schieldt said. "No one at the table had the same background. We had to go through it ourselves to bring it all together."
Elsen credited the students with making the trip worthwhile.
"These guys really were serious about it," Elsen said. "They took it as an opportunity to learn stuff, not as an excuse to get out of school. It's a testament to them."
The students were handpicked by Elsen to attend the event. He had been planning the trip since last year.
The students, who paid for the trip themselves, were the first students from Wisconsin to attend the summit, Elsen said.
"When we were walking around, it was really neat," Elsen said. "Being in the culture and learning the culture was a great experience. These guys did a great job. It says a lot about what they got out of it and a lot about their character."
Although not directly related to the Janesville School District's international initiative, the trip was endorsed by the district," Elsen said.
"The fact they let us do it was pretty cool," Elsen said.
Even though the students were in China for only 10 days, they formed unexpected friendships that have extended beyond the trip, Wilson said.
"I thought the summit was great to be able to share ideas and set goals for the future," Wilson said. "It was cool to meet with people from around the world who have the same passions."
"We learned more about Chinese culture in 10 days than we would have gotten out of a semester of class," Wilson said.