News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 08/01/3013
Subject :

Palo Alto Students Gain Global Perspective In Yangpu Exchange Program
Contact : Thomas Fehrenbach, Manager of Economic Development    (650) 329-2604
Palo Alto, CA – Six students from Palo Alto and Gunn High Schools recently returned from a three-week visit to China with a new perspective thanks to a pilot student exchange program that emerged as part of Palo Alto's "Smart Cities" partnership with the Yangpu District of Shanghai, China. The program differed from that of traditional exchange student curriculum in its focus not only on language and cultural immersion, but also on business and the global economy.

"Participating in the SMART cities program this summer was a constructive and educational experience for me, as it undoubtedly was for our whole group,” said Sean Keegan, a Palo Alto High School student who participated in the program. “We were immersed in Chinese culture and customs, learned valuable language skills and met major players in various industries while visiting companies and organizations such as Wells Fargo, GM and the American Chamber of Commerce. Having visited several times over the last few years, this program confirmed for me that Shanghai is the place to be – and the place to work – in the future, considering the rapid growth that I've personally noticed, along with the great opportunities we were shown this summer." 

Last year, several members of the City Council and staff participated in the Bay Area Council’s delegation to China to explore the City’s partnership agreement with the Yangpu District of Shanghai, China. Following the trip, Council directed staff to explore the possibility of a student exchange program and to work with the Bay Area Council and Yangpu officials to explore other areas of collaboration. More about Palo Alto’s “Smart Cities” International Programs can be found here.

While exploring the potential for a youth exchange program with the Palo Alto Unified School District, Vice Mayor Nancy Shepard and Council Member Marc Berman were put in touch with teachers in charge of the Mandarin immersion programs at the high school level. As the program took shape, the parents of one of the students in the program volunteered to lead the exchange program to Yangpu.   

A local entrepreneur, Ken Fong, underwrote a significant portion of the students’ expenses ($7,500) to make the trip possible.   

Through the parents’ experience and contacts, as well as relationships forged through the Palo Alto/Bay Area Council delegation visit, the program provided students with a global perspective of the 21st century economy. The program was administered in conjunction with Fudan University affiliate in Yangpu. Although the students essentially studied a week’s worth of Chinese every day – quite a contrast to the three hours per week of Chinese that the students normally receive – the itinerary differed from that of traditional exchange student curriculum. Students visited large global companies, government institutions, universities, and more. To read in more detail about their activities, go to the email diary from the trip written by one of the parents that is included in the information report as part of the Council packet for August 5.   

As part of their commitment, the students will be presenting highlights from their trip and experiences at a City Council meeting in September.