If summer camps in western Montana aren't far enough away for high school students to escape home (i.e., parents), there's always China.
For the second year, the Confucius Institute at the University of Montana is taking high school students to China for two weeks to learn more about the Chinese culture.
The only expense to students is round-trip airfare from Missoula, a visa application fee and international insurance. All expenses upon arrival in China are paid for by the Chinese government.
Students will walk along the Great Wall, eat authentic Chinese food, visit historical sites, learn paper-cutting calligraphy, brush painting, martial arts and some Mandarin Chinese.
So far, six high school students - five from Missoula and one from Hinsdale - are already signed up for the trip, which is right around the corner. Students leave July 26 and return Aug. 10. The deadline to apply is June 20.
Last year, 11 Montana students and two chaperones flew to China - bypassing any quarantine because of the H1N1 outbreak - and met up with 1,400 students from the U.S. and United Kingdom. The China Bridge Summer Camp is in its third year and aims to bolster interest in the Chinese culture and language, said Suhan Chen, assistant director. Students aren't required to have had any previous Chinese language classes.
The Confucius Center is the 39th center of its kind in the United States. There are 269 Confucius Institutes worldwide, which are funded by the Chinese government to promote Chinese culture and language. Since its dedication last year, the Confucius Institute in Montana has established Chinese language programs at many high schools across the state.
For the first time, the institute is offering summer programs in Missoula for elementary and middle school children to introduce them to the Chinese culture and interest them in eventually learning the Chinese language.
The ultimate goal, Chen said, is to increase the participation and interest in the Chinese language program in Montana high schools.
The camps are from 10 a.m. to noon June 21-25 and July 19-23 at the University Center on the UM campus. The cost is $75 per child, which includes all materials. Kids who attend the camps will learn Chinese calligraphy and how to make Shanxi-style dough figures, a traditional stuffed tiger, decorative appliqués and Tibetan wrapped ornaments.
The deadline to apply for the June camp is Thursday, June 17. The registration deadline for the July camp is Thursday, July 15. Space is limited to 15 students per camp, and registration is first-come, first-served. Late registration may be accepted on a space-available basis.
High school students interested in going to China can download the application at http://www.umt.edu/mansfield/ci/visitingChina.aspx. Students should submit the application with a letter that states why they want to attend the camp, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher.
Applications should be mailed to China Summer Camp Application, Confucius Institute at UM, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, the University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812.
Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.