Cameron White, 2014, East Asian Studies

The Princeton in Asia (PIA) Summer of Service Program offers Princeton undergraduates the opportunity to run an English immersion camp for Chinese university students in Jishou City (a city in Hunan Province, China). This summer, 11 students participated in this program. Three years ago, Princeton students launched “Greening Summer of Service,” an initiative that introduced environmental programming into the curriculum to cultivate a dialogue with their Chinese students surrounding some of the significant environmental challenges facing China. Along with teaching English, Princeton students organized afternoon extracurricular activities for the Jishou students. This year the activities included sports, cooking, orphanage volunteering, dance, and speech. In an effort to raise the students’ awareness of environmental issues, one week was devoted to teching about the environment. The Princeton students taught lessons on global warming and renewable energy, and each of the classes did a project focused on the environment. Local students took pictures of garbage and wrote poetry to accompany the images; others interviewed the city’s garbage collectors to document the changes they have seen in the environment over the years and field their suggestions for the future. Another group produced environmental videos on topics from water conservation to the use of public transportation, and yet another group interviewed food vendors to understand the challenges of the food cycle in the city and identify ways residents could help improve the system. The week culminated with the celebration of Earth Day, during which each class presented their finished project to the rest of the students. The focus on environmental studies, encouraged students to think about the world around them and how they could do small things to contribute to the health of the environment. The exchange between the Princeton and Jishou students fostered a unique connection across cultures over shared environmental challenges.