Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 2 a.m.
9700 West Hillpointe Road, Las Vegas
Desert heat, casinos seemingly on every block and, best of all, a shorter school day — this is Las Vegas for a group of Chinese students visiting the United States.
As part of Project USA Ready Study’s inaugural run, the Las Vegas-based Dr. Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson Educational School has spent the past two weeks serving as host to 18 students from China’s Zhejiang province, taking the visitors on field trips around the valley and providing daily classroom lessons in American culture.
Last week, during a field trip to the Springs Preserve, Wang Yang, a soft-spoken, 15-year-old student who also goes by Ruth, noted the environment here is much different than her native China.
“Here, it’s very red,” Ruth said of the desert. “But in China, it’s more green.”
Like most first-time visitors to Las Vegas, though, Ruth said she had never seen anything quite like the Strip, which she toured with her classmates earlier during their stay. In China, gambling is confined mostly to Macau or at illegal, underground establishments. But here, casinos were plentiful and legal, even if the visitors were not old enough to gamble just yet.
During the program, which kicked off July 12, the Chinese students have been immersed in American culture and learned about American history, said Kay Lau, president of Kay Lau & Associates and a consultant with the Adelson School. Ruth and her fellow students have spent their time here learning everything from American slang to text messaging.
Every lesson has revolved around gaining practical experience, Lau said. That means trips to the Smith’s Food and Drug stores to learn about shopping and science lessons at the Springs Preserve. There also were visits to the Hoover Dam and, of course, casinos.
For Xinhao Liu, a 13-year-old student who goes by Leo, the experience has inspired hopes to someday return to the United States and study at institutions like the University of California, Berkeley.
Having never traveled abroad previously, Leo said it was a new-yet-interesting experience living in America, trying out food like hot dogs and iced drinks. During the trip to the Springs Preserve, he saw lizards and bats for the first time.
“There’s also a spider that’s big and has hair,” he said, referring to the tarantula.
In China, spiders are much smaller, he added.
The daily classes at the Adelson School have averaged about five hours; back in China, the students attend school for eight hours a day.
The goal of the classes is to encourage students considering future study in the United States to assimilate with their peers instead of clustering with fellow international students, Lau said.
“We see this (program) as building bridges between the two countries,” Lau said. “With the meshing of cultures, it is more important than ever for everyone to understand each other.”
For the Chinese students, the program also means plenty of stories about their Las Vegas experiences to share with their friends back in China.