Andrew Gray and Victoria Gray attend camp in Shanghai, China


Courtesy of Victoria Gray

Standing with a family friend, mother Xiao Gray, brother Christopher Gray, freshman Victoria Gray and sophomore Andrew Gray visit the terracotta warriors in Xi’an China. The Gray family visited the museum after the children finished camp. “By the end [the museum] got jam packed with people, tourists, students and guides, but luckily we got there early. It was really interesting to see all the statues in real life,” Victoria said.

By Irene Yannakakis, Parkway West High School

In a pursuit to learn Mandarin, freshman Victoria Gray and sophomore Andrew Gray spent two weeks in Shanghai, China, at a camp called ‘That’s Mandarin.’

‘That’s Mandarin’ is a two-week camp located in Shanghai, China and Beijing, China that focuses on teaching kids and teenagers reading, writing and speaking Mandarin Chinese.

“I think it would be cool to go back,” Andrew said. “The camp was very fun and insightful and it’s really cool that the other people were there for the same reason, which was to learn Chinese.”

The Gray siblings attended the camp because their mother wanted them to learn Mandarin to communicate with her family.

“My mom is from Hunan province in southeastern China and grew up in Zhangjiajie, China. She researched the best learning programs and chose ‘That’s Mandarin.’ I am really excited that I can hold a conversation for a short amount of time, but the main things I can understand are yes or no questions,” Victoria said.

Courtesy of Victoria Gray
Freshman Victoria Gray stands in front of a waterfall near QingMing, China.

Along with learning Mandarin, Andrew and Victoria also met many people from all around the world.

“I met a lot of people from the U.S., but I also met people from places like Japan and Switzerland,” Andrew said.  “It was really cool to meet new people and talk to them about their countries and why they wanted to learn Chinese.”

In the mornings, the campers did cultural activities; Tuesdays and Thursdays, they visited museums and parks and other days they had classes on Mandarin poems or songs. 

“It was a really fun way to learn,” Andrew said. “Not only was it in China [which] was cool, but the teaching style was also fun. We went on a lot of field trips and visited a lot of museums around downtown Shanghai.”

Victoria stays in contact with her friends she met at camp and plans on going back sometime in the future.

“Despite the weather being extremely hot, the outside activities were fun. One time we went to a park near the learning building and we did jump rope, played Jianzi (Chinese game of badminton) and in the park, there were [elderly] people dancing to music,” Victoria said. “I had so much fun talking to the other people at camp. It was definitely an amazing experience.”

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on September 13, 2018.