LIVINGSTON, NJ — Teens from Livingston, West Orange, the Caldwells and Roseland have spent the last two weeks learning from and enjoying the company of 19 teens from Zhuhai, China at the West Essex YMCA’s Teen Adventure Camp.

YMCA employee Lisa Zhang recently connected the Y with a Chinese organization called EduAcross AmeriChina, which has US representatives who organize overseas excursions. Over the last few months, the Y designed a summer program for the Chinese teens to help them learn about life in suburban America.

Cheryl Francione, associate executive director at the Y, said that an international camping experience is a great way for both American teens and teens from foreign countries to learn about the world on a grander scale.

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“The West Essex Y believes in teaching cross-cultural learning, especially to our youth,” she said. “Our Y is thrilled to facilitate that experience. Although this is a one-way exchange, with campers coming from China to the US, it is still a great opportunity for the teens to learn about each other’s customs and cultures.”

English lessons, history lessons and economic lessons supplemented the fun camp activities to help the teens from China understand American life. The counselors also conducted team-building activities, which helped the American and Chinese campers to learn to work together in productive ways.

“They have built friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime,” said Francione. “They also learned that although we may live on opposite sides of the world, we are a lot more alike than we think. Communication is the key to understanding both our differences and our commonalities.”

In addition to all of the usual teen adventure trips—such as overnight camping at Fairview Lake Camp and Conference Center, a trip to the Jersey Shore, trips to water parks and a baseball game at Madison Square Garden—the Y also arranged special excursions around Livingston for the Chinese teens in order to give them a taste of the suburban-American lifestyle.

While in Livingston, the teens took tours of the Old Force Homestead; the Livingston Public Library; the Livingston Police Department; the Livingston Fire Department; the Municipal Court of Livingston; the Livingston Post Office; Wells Fargo Bank – Circle Branch; the Chocolate Factory Store; Kings Grocery Store; Shop Rite Grocery Store; and Inglemoor Rehab and Assisted Living.

Prior to their arrival in New Jersey, the group spent four days touring Yale and Harvard Universities and will visit Washington, D.C. this weekend before returning to China.

“The Y will absolutely consider doing this on an annual basis, going forward, with various countries,” said Francione. “It’s a big world, and there is so much that all of us can learn from these cross-cultural experiences.”

Pictured above:

The Chinese and American teens enjoy camp activities together on the YMCA lawn.

The teens enjoy lunch at Kings grocery store, where store manager Erica Higuera arranged a personal tour for them.

The teens enjoy tours of the fire station, the jail and the courthouse.

The teens take a tour of the Old Force Homestead in Livingston.

YMCA Associate Executive Director Cheryl Francione poses with the Chinese teens.