The Sandusky area hosted a special group of tourists this month, offering small-scale samplings of U.S. culture to a group of visiting Chinese students.
Nine teenaged students from China's Bright Foreign Language School explored the region July 6 to 15 as part of a lengthy trip across the nation.
They included the Sandusky area as a destination because of a partnership between Perkins High School and its former Chinese language teacher, Tang Xiaosu, who returned to China in 2012. The school is one of a handful across Ohio offering Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language course.
A grant from the Confucius Institute and Classroom Program, which supports Chinese language classes at Perkins High School, funded the July excursion across the area.
Teacher Yunbin Li, known in the U.S. as "Ben," guided the group, as well as Perkins Schools administrators and families. The students resided with Perkins Township host families during their stay.
"I've never been here before, and I'm glad I could come," student Huang Shiyu, 15, said about her journey across the country.
Local sites the class visited included Back to the Wild, the Castalia State Fish Hatchery, the Edison Birthplace Museum, Cedar Point, Kelleys Island, Put-in-Bay, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Wagner Quarry and Washington Park.
Additionally, the students' host families allowed them to participate in their day-to-day activities, such as family gatherings, sporting events and dinners at local restaurants.
Host families included Briar Middle School principal Steven Finn and his wife, Gail; Perkins High School co-principal Dean Stanfield and his wife, Cindy; Jim and Lori Thom; Wayne and Karen Ramey; Brian and Mandy Dubois; Christine Smith; and Martin and Sandy Stites.
Dave and Cathy Wobster and Steve and Betty Prout helped coordinate the trip.
The group's ultimate goal: Teach the Chinese students about U.S. culture by offering them a chance to experience it.
The next step: collect enough cash to send a group of Perkins High School students to China as early as 2015, Finn said.
"You can't really understand it until you've been there, and if we can get the funding, we want to make it happen," he said. "You can't really understand a culture until you've been there and lived it."