Chinatown Trip


Claire Beaman

The Nine Dragon Wall of Chinatown, Chicago.

Claire Beaman, writer

The Chinese class of Kennedy High School had the opportunity to go to the Chicago Chinatown as an educational field trip. This field trip allowed students to practice what they have learned about Chinese culture and language in the real world.

“The most important reason (for the trip) is to experience Chinese language and culture outside of the classroom. It’s one thing to have the experience with your classmates and with your teacher inside the classroom, but it’s something else when you’re actually experiencing, and hopefully using, some of what you learned in the real world. And that’s the point of any language class: to not just use it in the class but to use it in the real world,” Mr. Friedel, Chinese teacher, said.

Going to Chinatown gave students the chance to access and experience Chinese culture in ways that isn’t possible while in Cedar Rapids. To see how different Chinese people are from one another is a moment to truly understand the culture of the people.

“I think what mostly sets it (Chinatown) apart is that there is a greater mass of Asian people all over the place. There isn’t an equivalent place in Cedar Rapids where a bunch of Asian people or Asian related restaurants and shops are located together,” Friedel said.

Going to Chinatown doesn’t only reflect Chinese culture, but American culture as well. It shows how Chinese people have adapted to their life in America.

“I think it gives the unique perspective of the Chinese American experience because there are museums and cultural centers specifically about how Chinese people in America congregate. It’s what Chinese people in America consider to be their own culture because it’s not necessarily the same way that Chinese people in China would identify as,” Friedel said.

Students were able to experience this unique culture on their own as they pleased. They freely walked the streets of Chinatown, in and out of gift shops, restaurants, and were able to go in groups of their friends.

“To me it’s not about forcing kids to do things that they aren’t comfortable with, it’s about giving them the opportunity to explore in ways they want to explore. That looks differently for different kids. Some of the kids, any chance they get they’re gonna be speaking Chinese. And if other kids don’t do that, it doesn’t mean that they’re not having a useful experience as well,” Friedel said.

Overall, the students were able to enjoy themselves and experience new things along with their classmates. Freshman Maria Shaikh is a first year in the Chinese class and attended the Chinatown trip. Like many others, she found her best experience to be at a restaurant.

“At the dim sum shops, that was pretty interesting and pretty immersing. You’re eating the food, and you’re surrounded by Chinese people and they’re all speaking Chinese, so it’s hard to feel like you’re not in natural China,” Shaikh said.