Forget Harvard Summer School: Teens ChinaPrep Instead
- Part of TCBN's Education Series
Brantley Turner Bradley of China Prep knows China is in the future of America's youth. It's important to have them find interest and relationships with China today to improve the relationship of tomorrow. She is interviewed by Charter Member Kim Morrison.
: So why don’t you tell me what China Prep does.
: Sure. China Prep primarily runs programs for American high school students to go to China. We run independent programs where students from any school can sign up during their summer holiday or winter holiday to travel with us and do various different types of programs. We also work with schools, and primarily high schools in the United States, running groups for schools. So maybe a Chinese class wants to go to China, a Social Studies teacher who wants to look at certain topics within China that they’re covering in the classroom. Those trips tend to be spring break focused, early summer.
: So as a market, can you tell me some things about it as a market? How big is it?
: Sure. So really our primary target and the people that we’re dealing with are parents and students that are interested in engaging with China on some level. There’s still not a lot of young Americans going to China, and our hope is that more and more will go, and we believe really strongly that they should go. What we do find really is the growing market that informs our business is the increase starting and creating of Mandarin programs in schools in the United States’ high schools and middle schools. One of the great aspects of a high school Mandarin program is the opportunity to go to China. It can really inspire you to be excited about the language. It can give you a whole new motivation for digging in and studying Chinese. So the growth in Mandarin programs in schools here has been something like 200% over the last couple years.
It’s hard to get an exactly number on how many American students go to China every year. Obviously, study abroad at the university level you have more. But we basically find that the market is growing rapidly. So that’s why we’re involved. We think that more and more students will elect to go to China over other destinations. We do find that sometimes when a trip of ours is competing with another spring break trip at school – be that to Europe or Costa Rica or an area like that – that more students are choosing to go to China. There’s more awareness and more interest. I think that events like the Olympics help that. China is in fact doing us a favor by hosting things like the Shanghai Expo that will come up next year. There’s a lot of great educational programs that you can build around the big events going on in China because you can benefit from all the media coverage that those events get.
: Can you tell me about some of the underlying demand that you’re serving?
: It’s more about life going forward, especially for young people that we deal with – 12-year-olds, 15-year-olds – is that China will be a part of their world. So one of the things we’re working to create in terms of demand is an understanding that China is a good place to understand regardless of what you’re interested in. If you’re interested in business, it’s a no-brainer, of course, the economy, the more financial oriented sector. But a lot of high school students aren’t there yet in terms of their interest. What they are interested in is architecture, or the arts, or science, or environmental studies. China really has something to offer all of them in terms of their own passion points. So let’s take sports. Well, you might think that in China soccer is very popular. We don’t spend a lot of time focused on soccer here in the US. But the NBA is popular in China; there are Chinese basketball players in the NBA. You look for these small passion point areas and then really work to help connect young Americans with how their passion plays out in China, and you’ve created a whole new arena for them to explore.
One thing that’s very interesting is that we find most of our participants after a trip are totally crazy about China. They catch the bug, they’ve drunk the Kool-aid. Really it’s because expectations are different than the reality in China. So I don’t like to talk about Shanghai isn’t China; Beijing isn’t China, different cities aren’t China – that somehow China is still what we think of it in the past. That these modern cities have emerged but they aren’t China. No. It’s all China. China has so many different facets; it’s so totally developed in certain areas and still developing in other others. But that really gets our students excited. They can see themselves returning to China, living and working in China, be that because they’re very interested the fast-paced life of Shanghai, because they’re interested in history and culture in Beijing, because they want to spend more time in rural China working with people in those communities. And it so exceeds their expectation that it’s been really exciting to watch them get excited. So we find that they return home with a passion for China that wasn’t really there before they went. We like to say if we can get them on the airplane, it’s going to be great for them.
: What changes or trends are you seeing in your landscape?
: Because we work with families and students, the main change there is just more and more awareness. More people interested in China. More people who feel like it’s not that foreign, that they can handle the idea of spending a summer to take a trip. We also find a lot of changes within schools. So, we may start working with a school around a spring break trip, around taking the students to China. What then might happen, because they have experience with us, they get to know us, that they’re interested in us helping them with different projects that their working on, either in China or China-related here in the United States.
Another area with a lot of demand and a lot of interest is Chinese students coming to the United States to both do secondary school level exchanges, to do summer camps, to work on their English, to tour. We look a lot at that segment and we think a lot about how to do that in the right way, the way that best suits ChinaPrep. What we find now is just helping schools to create those relationships to that they can run the types of programs that they want to, whether it’s an American school or a Chinese school it’s mutually beneficial. There’s no question that there are many more young Chinese coming to America than there are young Americans going to China. We would like to see that start to shift, so we’re pretty focused on closing that gap.
Find out more about China Prep's programs on their website.