Search by School Name     
 Home > China Education

Cumberland Valley Student to Study in China

Sophomore Savannah Billman, along with about a dozen students from the United States, will travel to Beijing and attend school for the 2013-2014 academic year. She will attend school at Beijing High School No. 80. Billman was awarded a scholarship from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, and is one of 625 students nationwide to receive the scholarship. The organization, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides scholarships to high school students for immersion programs across the world.
Billman’s trip will be her second to China. She visited the country last year on a 10-day trip with the Chinese class at Cumberland Valley High School.
The experience is a mixed bag of emotions for Billman.
''The school year is coming to an end, and I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss all my friends and taking classes in English,” she said.
Billman will leave for Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28. She will go through a departure orientation and then fly to Beijing. She will stay in her school’s dorms during school weeks, and with a host family on weekends. The exposure to a new culture is something she said she is looking forward to.
''They (the Chinese) were one of the first civilizations,” she said. “It’s an incredibly rich culture, and it’s so different than here.”
Billman is no stranger to the Chinese language, having studied Chinese since she was in the fourth grade. She said she always had an interest in the language and culture.
Billman took Chinese at the Chinese Cultural Arts Institute in Harrisburg when she was in the sixth grade. She participated in a language competition, during which she recited stories in front of Chinese judges. She placed second in the competition.
Her exposure to the language continued at Cumberland Valley High School. She refers to the upcoming trip as a “culmination” of her studies.
''I feel like I’ll have a pretty good foundation in the culture and the language, because I’ve had the same Chinese teacher, Lan Ziegler, for three years now,” Billman said.
She is already getting an idea of what to expect in a new culture. A set of guidelines she was sent by program coordinators include some tips. Billman was told not to sit in a slouched position while in class, not to look people in the eye and not to give or take things with just one hand. She was also discouraged from wearing colorful clothing — something she said would be hard to do.
Overall Billman’s goals are to become fluent in the language and to receive an education from a new perspective.
''I think it would be really cool to take a history class in Chinese,” she said. “You get the different perspective on world history, because we learn everything here from an American perspective.”
Billman plans to keep the Chinese language as a part of her life. She said she enjoys writing, and currently works as a features reporter for the high school’s newspaper, the CV Eye. She said she hopes to continue down the journalism career path, while incorporating her passion for the Chinese language.