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Chinese Exchange Highlights Differences Along With Potential

As advancing technology has brought different regions of the globe into closer and closer contact, people have realized more and more how distinctive the world's many cultures truly are. These different traditions have led to unique attitudes toward life, business and, many have begun to realize, education. Maureen VanBuren of Fort Ann, New York, got a chance to explore these differences on an educational trip to China in November, according to The Post-Star.

The opportunity arose as part of the 2011 Chinese Bridge Delegation, a cultural exchange program put together by the College Board with the help of the Hanban-Asia Society Confucius Classrooms Network, a group that promotes the development of effective Chinese-language education in the U.S.

The goal of such cultural exchange organizations is to encourage a broader understanding of cultural differences between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies and two of the most important players on the international stage.

Indeed, the U.S. Census Bureau notes that China, aside from being the source of the largest share of U.S. imports, is also the third-largest importer of American goods behind only the U.S.' two neighbors, making it an important region for almost all American businesses. With this in mind, VanBuren hoped to be able to bring back the stories of her experiences to her students to help provide some perspective on the nation.

The program first brought a number of Chinese visitors to explore U.S. schools, before giving American educators the same opportunity in China. VanBuren got a chance to visit a Chinese school in Beijing, seeing the stark differences in the structure of the education, from foreign languages being taught as early as kindergarten to dedicated time for extracurricular activities. In particular, VanBuren was impressed with the level of the bilingual education, with young students already taking part in English-language immersion classrooms.

"As we teach foreign language, regardless of which language a district chooses, we need to start that earlier," VanBuren told The Post-Star.

And for those that make that effort, there are programs that can help them make use of such skills. Cultural exchange organizations often run programs helping Americans find work abroad, giving them an opportunity to experience the cultures they studied in person.