Riverdale News & Stories
A group of 16 Upper School students traveled to China over Spring Break to explore the cities of Suzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. In Suzhou, students spent several days getting to know their host families and the city, visiting ancient gardens, and stretching their language and arts skills at Suzhou No. 6 High School. Over two days in Shanghai, students visited a robot company and the Urban Planning Museum, and had dinner with RCS alum Kenny Huang ‘87. The group’s remaining four days were spent in Beijing visiting The Summer Palace and meeting with students at Tsinghua University. Read students’ vivid descriptions of their adventures in China through their diary entries below.
Today we took the bullet train to Shanghai. Following our morning activities, we had lunch at the world-renowned Ding Tai Fung restaurant. After nearly 20 minutes of figuring out what to order we settled upon multiple types of Xiao Long Bao, noodles, and vegetable platters. As if that was not enough, we ordered more Xiao Long Bao, noodles, and pork buns, adding to the total duration of time at the restaurant—more than two hours! At night we attended China's best acrobat show, which proved to be spectacular. We had a fantastic day exploring Shanghai and experiencing Chinese culture.
Max Pasternak (李加辉) & Oliver Hurwitz (何立佛)
Day two in Shanghai started with a visit to Xiao i Robot company. Number one in its field, Xiao i produced China's best AI, currently being used in select public places to substantially modernize China's facilities by means of efficiency. We were then taken on a personal tour of their display lab. Upon entering the voice activated doors, we met Xiao i, a personal assistant robot, who gave us the weather and other useful advice. We then toured the service robots employed in hospitals and banks to act as automated customer service. Next was the Xiao i smart home presentation. In addition to being the typical functional smart home system, it came with a robot toy who shared the same software as the personal assistant and could also dance, sit and play music. Afterwards we went to the conference room to hear a presentation from the chief engineer.
Oliver Hurwitz(何立佛) & Justin Wong (黄彦文)
What will likely be remembered as the least Chinese—or rather, most transnational—part of the entire China trip was our visit to Tsinghua University’s Stephen A. Schwarzman College. In 2013 Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman donated $100 million to Tsinghua to establish a one-year international student MA in Sino-American relations. Schwarzman’s dream is to promote friendship and understanding between the two superpowers. Thus students attend tuition-free and, between the ages of 22 and 28, participate in intramural sports and singing competitions outside the walls of the College with other Tsinghua students. "We were the only department that sang a Chinese pop song instead of a patriotic communist song," explained Christian, our Danish guide. "But we won the enthusiasm award!" explained Kelsi, our Texas-born MIT engineering grad Now in its first year, the program has its own professors—some local, some imported from the Ivy League—109 students, and support staff. Our guides, an American woman fresh out of MIT and a Danish man several years out of Harvard, gleefully showed us the library, dining hall, gym, music room, auditorium, and a classroom designed to emulate Harvard Business School's. The facilities are beautiful: all warm wood, air, and light—the building was designed by Robert Stern of the Yale School of Architecture.
Max Horne (洪明伟) & Katie Orenstein (欧逸灵)
This morning we toured the Dandelion School, a boarding middle school for the children of migrant workers who move to Beijing for a chance to make more money. First we visited the kitchen, which runs mainly on donations and feeds the students every meal of the day. Then we saw the dorms, which we would say are extremely cramped, but for many it may be better than their parents' homes: "Here there is heat.” A favorite part about Dandelion was the student drawings of their parents’ hands, and the story about students washing their parents' feet. We learned about their difficult home lives and how some kids had to move more than four times because of their parents’ jobs. When I listened to these stories, I thought these students would all be sort of beat down kids; but it was the opposite - they took their adversity in stride.
Evan Eldermire (孟义闻) & Justin Berger (白清明)
Sadly it is our last full day here in China. We've had such an amazing and unforgettable experience here and we will remember it for the rest of our lives. We began the day at Phoenix Mountain—or feng huang ling—to see the Dragon Spring Temple Buddhist monastery, otherwise known as Longquan Monastery. Longquan is unlike many other monasteries in that it is not traditional or isolated from the world. It is known for its modern ways of spreading Buddhism such as creating Xian'er, a cartoon Buddhist character who, through videos, pictures, and other forms of art ,spreads and teaches Buddhist beliefs. We met with a Buddhist who lives at the monastery. He told us about his background and life experiences as a Buddhist. We then had a traditional and unfamiliar style Buddhist lunch. We were told that we would not be allowed to speak, as eating is also a kind of meditation, and that any food we had in our bowls we would have to finish. There was no leftover food allowed because it is symbolic to the Buddhists to make sure that food is appreciated and not wasted.
Jordana Levine (吕丹娜) & Chiara Schmidt (如菁)