BEIJING — Walking down a Beijing street on Tuesday evening as neon signs with Chinese characters glowed above, Katina Kemplin said that a nearly 19- hour journey from Nashville to China's capital city was "absolutely" worth it.
Kemplin, the principal of Adairville Elementary School, wants to experience Chinese culture firsthand.
"Getting to see the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square and all these places as a kid you might have only thought you would see in your textbooks" is an experience she will take back for teachers and students at her school, she said.
Kemplin is one of a small group made up mostly of Kentucky school administrators who traveled to Beijing this week to explore differences in educational leadership in China and the United States.
The trip was organized through the Confucius Institute at Western Kentucky University and paid for by the Hanban.
Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters is a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide.
Participants left Nashville early Monday morning and arrived in China on Tuesday afternoon, Beijing local time. Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Bowling Green.
Official events on the trip will kick off Wednesday morning with a visit to Beijing Language and Culture University.
Logan County Schools have had Chinese teachers coming in to work with students for the past three years, Kemplin said.
She said her students enjoy the lessons.
"So they can learn about the language and all about the culture and learn their names in Chinese and all the cool things that kids would like to know," Kemplin said.
Even in her brief time in Beijing, she said it has been interesting getting a look at the city.
"It's very interesting, and it's so different from America," she said.
The food especially is different, Kemplin said. Participants took part in a family-style Chinese meal on Tuesday evening, featuring food such as Peking duck, pork dumplings and kung pow chicken.
The meal was far different than what she usually eats, Kemplin said.
“We like, you know, typical country cooking," she said.
Kemplin also noted that the way people get around in Beijing seems different than what is typically seen with many more people using bicycles or other two or three-wheel vehicles instead of cars and people of all ages riding bicycles.
Steven Karsner, principal of Boyle County Middle School, said his school has taught Mandarin to middle schoolers for the past two years.
"I was interested in the education process over here, wanted to learn more about it," he said.
With the trip's focus on teaching leadership, Karsner said he is looking for ideas he might be able to bring back to Boyle County.
The school has a student council, but not a specific program to teach leadership skills, he said.
Karsner is a self-described picky eater who said that, while he enjoyed his first meal in China on Tuesday evening, he is concerned about food throughout the duration of the trip.
"Breakfast worries me a little in the morning," he said.
However, he said he brought food as a backup in case there is nothing he wants to eat.