“Their culture is beautiful:” Students share experience from once-in-a-lifetime trip to China

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Do you remember your 8th grade school trip? A group of students at Milwaukee's Highland Community School say they won't ever forget theirs. They just got back from nine days in China!

It was an experience the students dreamed of, that turned into a reality. Sixteen Highland Community School 8th and 9th graders returned from their trip on Saturday, and are sharing what they learned with others.

"I think their culture is beautiful. I just think it is way different than here,  in the United States," said 8th grader Layla Jackson.

"Being able to overcome the language barrier was very difficult," said 8th grader Jay Gillery.

"They had different food there, so it was kind of hard for me to transition into their flavor," said Kiantae Hopkins, another 8th grader.

The kids were a part of China's first Montessori Model United Nations Conference. Only nine U.S. schools took part.

This was Highland Community School's first international trip. Students raised money for their trip to China by working in their school's Community Café, selling baked goods they make and selling coffee. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett stopped by, he talked about his own trips to China.

"We think of this side of Milwaukee, of that side of Milwaukee, or this neighborhood, or that neighborhood, but when you get over to China, it is literally a whole new world," said Mayor Barrett.

The conference was in Zhengzhou, the capital of the Henan Province in North Central China, a city of 8 million people. Students say they made friends they will never forget.

"We are going to keep in touch via e-mail, because in China you know, they don`t have the Snapchat and stuff," said Jackson.

Through the journey, they learned an important life lesson.

"Live life in the moment, because once that moment is gone, you will never get it back," said Hopkins.

The trip cost $1,600 per student. It was funded through donations and fundraising. Any 8th grade student had the option of going. School leaders expect next year's class to go to Costa Rica.