SYRACUSE -- Learning Chinese was certainly not on Davis Swanson's mind two years ago, when he traveled with his parents to China to adopt another child.
Swanson became mesmerized by the country and culture so completely different than his in America, so when he returned home and found out Syracuse Junior High offered a Chinese language class, Swanson jumped at the chance.
Now in his second year of studying Chinese, Swanson recently received a rare opportunity. He was asked to attend a special invitation-only event in Washington D.C. at Howard University, where first lady Michelle Obama spoke to students about President Barack Obama's "100,000 Strong Initiative," a program aimed at increasing the number of students traveling to China for study abroad in upcoming years.
"(The first lady) told us that America could be represented in China and have a strong relationship between the two countries as a result," said Swanson.
Fitting the qualifications of being a student studying Chinese and having recently visited China, Swanson was able to represent Davis School District at the event.
He also got to shake hands and talk with Mrs. Obama for a few minutes.
As a result, Swanson now hopes to be one of those students who gets the opportunity to study abroad in China.
"It was really cool to see the first lady, something I will always remember," said Swanson. "Before that I didn't really think about studying abroad. But now, I really want to do it, both for fun and to learn the culture."
Also speaking at the event was Madam Chen Naiqing, wife of China's ambassador to the United States, who spoke about the history of international study.
The event coincided with the recent visit of Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, who was in town to meet with President Obama.
Learning Chinese may not seem like the easiest task for some, but for Swanson's teacher, Lan'Jy Duke, it is a beautiful language that is fairly easy to teach students.
Originally from Taiwan, she uses stories to help the students listen to the language, then pick up on the correct sounds.
"They probably don't recognize a lot or write a lot of the characters at first, but they can listen and comprehend a lot," said Duke.
By a student's third year of Chinese language classes, they know how to write many of the Chinese characters, she said.
Offering Chinese language classes is becoming more popular in the Davis School District, with 12 of the 15 junior highs currently teaching Chinese. The language has increased at schools in the district due to a recent partnership with the Chinese government, allowing teachers from China to come and live in the United States for a few years teaching the language, according to Bonnie Flint, Davis
School District world languages curriculum supervisor.
"It is a win-win situation for both of us: to bring the Chinese culture and language to us and open doors for our students. Then the teachers go back to China and teach their students about what America is really like and teach them English," said Flint.
Swanson is hoping to take advantage of those opened doors.
"In my mind, China is a big world power in the future, so learning Chinese could open a lot of job opportunities for me because there will be lots of dealings with China," said Swanson.