Postcards from the 'Paris of the East'

A slice of school life in Shanghai 

By Dean Patterson

Global citizenship matters more to this generation than any before. Global citizens develop a keen understanding of other cultures and belief systems, and can think critically about how their thoughts, words and actions might affect those around them. Studying abroad is the perfect way to cultivate this mindset.

This year, two Parker students, Erin Wright ’17 and Adam Gordon ’17, along with drama teacher Mark Femia, took advantage of one of Parker’s international opportunities in April, spending two weeks in and around Shanghai, China as part of the YK Pao School Student Exchange program.

YK Pao is one of China’s premier international schools. Its 1,100 students represent 15 nationalities and benefit from a fully bilingual Chinese-English program.The Middle and Upper School campus is located in Thames Town, a quiet residential neighborhood outside Shanghai in the Songjiang District, and the Lower School campus is in Shanghai’s city center.

For two weeks, Adam, Erin and Mr. Femia practiced their Mandarin, explored the YK Pao campus, the city of Shanghai and experienced firsthand the features of big-city life in China.

“What I enjoyed as much as anything,” explained Adam, who has been studying Mandarin for seven years, “was an extensive tour of the city made easy by smart phones. Many people in Shanghai have an app that allows them to unlock public bikes placed throughout the city. To move about, we used these easy-to-find bikes that we unlocked with the app. What a great way to see Shanghai and experience a culture up close and personal.”

Other experiences included a taste of some features of a Chinese education that aren’t common in the United States, such as character-building exercises and classes in Chinese literature, philosophy and art. The exchange builds on Parker’s approach of developing individuals who are respectful, lifelong students of the world’s history, cultures and values.

“Parker’s exchange with YK Pao School is a direct outgrowth of our School’s global educational perspective,” said coordinator Tim Katzman, Director of Summer and Extended Day Programs. He said the next goal is to both broaden and deepen participation, involving more students and teachers and extend the two-week program to perhaps a trimester in length.

Erin and Adam’s reactions indicate that a longer experience would be desirable. “There was not one thing that I didn’t like about the trip,” Erin said. “The food was delicious, the campus was beautiful and everyone was so welcoming and friendly. There simply were not enough days to do all that we wanted to do!”

Mr. Femia spent time with the Chinese school’s faculty and observed and took part in classes. The students lived in YK Pao dorms, experienced a weekend homestay, taught English to Chinese with mental and physical disabilities and interacted directly with the larger Shanghai community.

“If I can reach out to the community across the world, then I can certainly do that here in San Diego,” Erin said. The YK Pao experience definitely made me more passionate about engaging in community service.”

Upper School memories at Parker are known to last a lifetime. Experiences like Erin and Adam’s demonstrate that Parker memories made overseas are no exception.
Francis Parker School is a private, independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12 from across San Diego County. Founded in 1912, the Lower School is located on the Mission Hills Campus with the Upper and Middle Schools on the Linda Vista Campus. Parker's mission is to inspire a diverse community of independent thinkers whose academic excellence, global perspective and strength of character prepare them to make a meaningful difference in the world.

Mission Hills Campus Lower School

4201 Randolph Street
San Diego, CA 92103

Linda Vista Campus Middle/Upper School

6501 Linda Vista Road
San Diego, CA 92111
858 / 569-7900