Early June found Jr. Bills on the Chinese trip halfway across the world in a night market eating stinky tofu for the first time. For two weeks, a group of St. Louis U. High Chinese students and chaperones, led by Chinese teacher Yude Huang, traveled around Taiwan making incredible memories and stopping to see an old friend along the way.
The trip began in the city of Taipei where the group stayed in CU Hotel Taipei. The convenient location of the hotel allowed the students to explore the streets of Taipei in the evenings and experience the city’s rich culture, including bustling night markets. These shopping centers a host myriad of vendors with a wide variety of products and occupy what during the day is a regular street.
“They sell everything from food to fake designer clothes, pretty much everything you can imagine,” said senior Charlie Perry. “The night markets were a really cool experience because we got to practice our Chinese negotiating skills.”
When the students weren’t exploring the area around their hotel on their own, they went sightseeing around the city led by their friendly tour guide Sunny and the insider knowledge of Huang. Huang is a Taiwan native, so he was able to act almost as a second tour guide for the group, giving them advice on things like which foods to try.
“One of my favorite parts of the trip was having Mr. Huang say over and over ‘you have to try this, it’s famous,’” said history teacher and chaperone Lindsey Ehret. “It was really nice to have his insider’s view of the country.”
Food was a unique part of the trip, and students and chaperones alike were often encouraged to try delicacies out of their comfort zone, including things like tofu, scallop pancakes, bubble tea, bitter root soup, and, in Perry’s case, fish eye.
“At one of the meals with our host family, we were eating fish, and they told me to have the fish eye,” said Perry. “After a bit of reluctance, I bit into it, and there was a crunch, and the inside was gooey-traumatizing.”
After their time spent in Taipei, the group headed out to the countryside, where they stayed with host families for three days. While with the families, they visited multiple schools and even got to attend classes for one day. They spent the last day with the host families exploring their favorite spots around the area.
The host family program was a new addition to the Taiwan trip this year.
“It was cool to stay with host families because we got to experience how they live,” said senior Jimmy Wolfe. “It was interesting to see how different their schools are.”
Over the three days, the students developed a special bond with the families, and a few still keep in touch with their families through email.
One thing the students and chaperones loved about Taiwan was how hospitable the people were.
“People would bend over backwards to make you feel comfortable, and they would provide gifts for everyone,” remarked Ehret.
Another highlight of the trip for many was meeting up with former SLUH Chinese exchange student Anna Shi. Shi came to SLUH two years ago as a part of the exchange program with the Nanjing Foreign Language School, and became great friends with several students during her time here. Shi was in Taiwan to take the SAT at the time of the trip, so she arranged to meet up with the group and join them for five days. After an enthusiastic and much anticipated reuniting, she accompanied the group on the tour.
“She joined us for all the activities,” Wolfe said. “She rode on the bus with us and was my translator while she was with us.”
Students and teachers alike raved about the trip and said there was almost nothing that they could see needing improvement.
“It was the best part of my summer!” exclaimed Wolfe.
“I encourage everybody to pursue things in life like this trip that might seem challenging, and might test your comfort level, but it’s really rewarding because you have really great memories and you can connect with a large percentage of the population. Everybody was over the top generous with us, and it was a really welcoming environment, so I would recommend anybody taking Chinese try to go,” said Ehret.
Just be careful with the fish eyes.