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2023 International School of Denver China Immersion Program

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2023 International School of Denver China Immersion Program!  To learn the basics about this once in a lifetime opportunity, you'll begin by using the Pre-Enrollment page, the purpose of which is to share exciting highlights and important info that participants will want to know before signing up. If you enroll, you'll move to the Post-Enrollment page which offers a greater level of detail.  Please be sure to review the information thoroughly and get excited for all that China has to offer!! 
Travel Dates: June 1, 2023 - June 15, 2023
Dates are tentative
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $3,190 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Estimated Airfare: $1,250

What to Expect

Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.

Itinerary

We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

DayLocationDescriptionLodging
1USA-Chengdu, SichuanToday we'll depart the US and fly across the Pacific to the metropolis of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China.Airplane
2ChengduAfter crossing the international dateline, we'll arrive in Chengdu in the evening. We'll settle in at the hotel, have our first dinner together and rest up for our upcoming adventure!Xishu Garden Inn
3ChengduAfter a good night's rest we'll have our big orientation and explore Chengdu, checking out the famous Wuhou Temple and eating our fair share of Chengdu's specialty street snacks on Jinli street. We'll also stroll over to the People's Park to hang with the locals while they get fit & socialize through ballroom dance, kite flying, taichi, and more! For dinner, we'll try our hand at expert level DIY Sichuan cuisine, hotpot!Xishu Garden Inn
4Chengdu-LeshanAfter an early breakfast, we'll set out from Chengdu for Leshan. Here we will summit a sacred peak to visit the Leshan Buddha, the world’s largest Buddha statue, which is carved into a massive cliff at the confluence of two rivers. After enjoying the big Buddha up close, we'll head down the mountain and take a boat ride past the Buddha for an even better view and great photo opportunities.Xishu Garden Inn
5DujiangyanEarly this morning, we'll make our way to the Panda Center at Dujiangyan to begin our volunteering program. Our tasks will include cleaning panda enclosures, preparing bamboo and “panda bread”, as well as hand-feeding the pandas. We'll also watch a documentary about panda habitat loss, and learn about the breeding & reintroduction work that is currently being done.Dujiangyan Hotel
6DujiangyanWe'll continue volunteering at the Dujiangyan Panda Center and free time to explore Dujiangyan village in the afternoon/evening.Dujiangyan Hotel
7DujiangyanToday, we'll visit the Chengdu Base of Giant Panda Breeding to see the more public facing side of panda conservation in China. We'll tour the facilities and also see the Giant pandas smaller cousin, the Red Panda. Another possibility includes heading to Panda Valley, where important reintroduction work is being done. We'll also get the insider's scoop by speaking with scientists working at the center about their research and the future of China's adorable mascot. In the afternoon, we have two options: a relaxing hike in the misty waterfalls of Qingcheng Back Mountain, where we'll enjoy stunning scenery and an escape from the heat. Or, check out the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, for which the region is known, and presents an impressive feat of urban/structural engineering that has been in use since the 3rd century.Dujiangyan Hotel
8Anlong-ChengduVisit and tour Anlong Village to learn about the work of Chengdu Urban Rivers Association & pitch in with some of their sustainable agricultural education programming. We'll enjoy tea and mahjong on the shores of the surging river while we settle into the relaxed pace of life in rural Sichuan. We'll also have the unique opportunity to partake in family style meals in local farmer's homes. Upon heading back into the city in the evening, we'll enjoy an entertaining Sichuan opera performance featuring traditional “Face Changing”, acrobatics, and more.Xishu Garden Inn
9Chengdu-BeijingAfter a final morning in Sichuan, we'll hop on the long-distance sleeper train to Beijing. As we fly through the countryside, we'll rest and recharge our batteries, play cards, journal, snack and/or practice our Chinese language skills with our neighbors.Sleeper Train
10BeijingWe'll arrive in Beijing and get settled in at our accommodations in the historic Ming dynasty hutong alleyways of the old city center. This afternoon we'll check out the Lama Temple, Beijing's largest active Buddhist temple. In the evening, we'll take a cooking class at The Hutong and try our hand at crafting the Chinese cuisine we've been enjoying (option of making dumplings or handmade noodles).Sleepy Inn
11BeijingWe'll begin our morning bright and early with a hutong scavenger hunt, exploring our neighborhood and soaking up Beijing's unique culture. We'll make our way to the Drum & Bell Tower Square for a demonstration of how time was kept by beating drums in ancient times. We'll then hop on the subway heading towards Qianmen, the old front gate of the city wall. We'll then walk through Tiananmen Square, and reflect on the past and current significance of the events that took place there. Eventually, we'll make our way to the Forbidden City, the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. Time allowing, we'll check out the emperor's impressive collection of elaborate mechanized clocks from all over the world at the Hall of Clocks. After a busy day, we'll spend the late afternoon in Jingshan park for sweeping views of the Forbidden City from above.Sleepy Inn
12BeijingToday we'll take a private bus out to visit the art districts in the northeast corner of the city. We'll learn about contemporary art, the role of artists in society, and visit studios to see where many of China's premiere practicing artists live & work. We'll engage in our own art education activity at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. We'll also experience life in Caochangdi, a thriving urban village that is home to many world-renowned artists and galleries. On the way back into the city, we'll drive by the nearby Olympic Park, constructed for the 2008 Olympic games, to see the beautiful architecture of the Bird's Nest & the Water Cube lit up at night.Sleepy Inn
13Lianhuachi-BeijingToday we'll visit one of the most important cultural sites on the planet: the Great Wall of China! We'll start our climb on the “Wild Wall” in Lotus Pond Village (taking time to get a sense of life in a rural village outside the city) and eventually connect to the restored Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. After taking as many photos as we can stand, we'll have our choice of ways to descend, either via cable car or toboggan ride. We'll enjoy a meal at a small family-run restaurant to get a sense of rural home-style Chinese cooking.Sleepy Inn
14BeijingFor our final full day in China, we'll either engage in a cultural exchange activity with local students, or do further exploration of Beijing's rich culture. Options include experiencing stunning imperial ritual architecture during a visit to the Temple of Heaven, or testing our haggling skills while picking up last minute gifts/souvenirs at the famed Pan Jia Yuan Flea Market. We'll go out for our farewell dinner and have a Beijing specialty: Peking duck. We'll close out the celebration of our time together with a Karaoke party after dinner!Sleepy Inn
15Beijing-USACheck out, head to the airport, and fly home! 再见中国!Your own bed, eventually!

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Accommodations

In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe. 

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
Sleepy Inn

The cosmopolitan and vibrant atmosphere make this hotel a wonderful experience for our student groups. Selected for the great service, clean rooms and advantageous location, Sleepy Inn is an excellent place to relax between adventures around Beijing.  Rooms and bathrooms will be exclusive to our travelers.

Xishu Garden Inn – Chengdu

Xishu Garden Inn is a colorful and lively hotel located in the heart of Chengdu. It is inviting, charming and will offer a great place to retreat at the end of the day. Wifi and AC are available throughout the property and breakfast will be served each morning in the dining area. Students will be split between genders in double, triple or dorm style rooms depending on hotel availability.

Group Flight

Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here. Walking Tree will secure a seat on the group flight for each participant unless otherwise instructed.

Travelers are responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.

We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure, but travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass and have documents verified. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure, but contact your Group Organizer for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure.

FLIGHT INTERRUPTION DELAY OR CANCELLATION 
Air travel is unpredictable, especially in a pandemic.  Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to staffing shortages, weather, mechanical problems, etc.  Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers en route.  Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country, and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group in the event of a delay. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night.  Our primary role will be to  keep families updated and provide support to the Group Organizer to reach a  quick and effective resolution.

Host Community and Project Details

Packing List

What follows is a sample packing list that is provided as a guideline. Feel free to augment as you feel necessary.  We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The list below should cover everything you would need, but know yourself and what you are comfortable traveling with.  We suggest bringing only as much as you would be able to carry on your own.

Finally, we recommend consulting a weather forecast for your destination. 

The region of the country you will be visiting is in a lush tropical rainforest and next to the ocean and therefore humidity is omnipresent and it can take a while for clothes to dry. Keep this in mind when selecting your clothing fabric.

Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.

CLOTHES (quantities depend on your trip length) :

  • Underwear
  • Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
  • T-shirts (some quick dry)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Long sleeve quick dry shirt (for activities under the sun such as rafting or surfing)
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
  • Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
  • 1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions, boys may want to opt for a polo shirt or button up shirt with jeans)
  • Durable athletic/hiking shoes with good grip
  • Sandals (Chaco/Teva/Keen/Merrel sandals are great to have for water activities)
  • Thick long socks (for the sand fleas)
  • Bandana for work site (optional)
  • A hat that can protect your neck
  • Swimming suit, for surf classes a rash guard is recommended for sensitive skins

TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:

  • Sunscreen (You will use a lot. Natural products/lotions are preferred over aerosol, especially for the beach)
  • Mosquito repellent (non-deet/lotions are preferred to reduce environmental impact)
  • Band Aids and Neosporin
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Medication in properly marked original container. It’s important that medication travel in its original container, as customs officials have the right to confiscate it otherwise.

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and pen
  • Book
  • Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
  • Alarm Clock and watch
  • Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on number of desired snacks, souvenirs, extra items etc.)
  • Durable water bottle
  • 1 quick-dry towel
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Batteries
  • Deck of cards or other portable games
  • Chinese/English dictionary
  • Electrical converter and adapter
    **China runs 220V, 50Hz AC electricity. A converter is only necessary if your device does not have 120-220V range.

RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL ITEMS:

  • Small luggage lock
  • Portable charger (for long train ride)
  • Wet wipes
  • Ziplock bags
  • Travel pillow
  • Ear plugs

Support Team

At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.

Alena Shish
Alena Shish
China Country Director, Program Leader


Middlebury College – B.A. in Chinese Language in Literature; Minor in French & Francophone Studies

Born in Ukraine and growing up in the United States, Alena is no stranger to thriving in different cultural environments and studying foreign languages (so far, she speaks four: English, Chinese, French, & Russian). While at Middlebury College, she had the opportunity to study in both Hangzhou, China, and Paris, France. Her time abroad inspired her to see the potential in study abroad and intercultural exchange for personal growth and cross-cultural understanding. Having fallen in love with the Chinese language, food, and culture while abroad, after graduation, she moved to Shenzhen, China to help Chinese high schools students through the US university application process. Since then, she’s also traveled around Russia, Israel, East Asia and all over China. So far, she’s been to 19 provinces, 4 municipalities, and 2 administrative regions in mainland China. When she’s not hiking or spending time reading, she’s obsessively baidu-ing (the Chinese Google) new Chinese slang, new Chinese dishes to try, or new places to explore in China. She’s excited to see to share her love of China, Chinese language, and travel with all her trip participants.

Luke Mueller
Luke Mueller
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO


Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History

During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents.  Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.

Group Roster

Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.

Blog and Communication

During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program.  Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.

Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.

 

GLC Curriculum

Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.

For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Standards of Behavior

In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct.

ABSOLUTE DISMISSAL

  1. Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE

  1. Failure to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  3. Possessing weapons.
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  5. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  6. Being out after curfew.
  7. Breaking group rules.

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of your program. Please take the time to review these as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them.

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC China website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.

Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.

Insurance

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience teaches that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider a travel insurance policy with  two additional provisions: Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Bed Rest. Detailed explanations of both provisions can be found on the link below.

To provide families with a quality option, Walking Tree has partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by getting a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of the date your initial payment or your deposit for your trip is received. You must also insure 100% of the prepaid, non-refundable trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and cancel 48 hours or more before your scheduled trip departure date.

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