A Philip Barbour High School student will travel to China for 41 days, and she's obviously excited about the opportunity.
"It's just going to be so new and amazing and I'm going to learn so much, and I'm just really excited for that," said Marisa Terwiliger, 16, of Barbour County.
She says it's the first time she will travel out of the country. She came up with the idea to travel to China with her school's Chinese teacher, Mrs. Xiefeng Jia, and a the foreign exchange student currently living with her family, Jing "Diana" Qian.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Philip Barbour High School student Marissa Terwiliger, left, will travel to China with Jing ‘Diana’ Qian, right, a Chinese foreign exchange student. Terwiliger will meet up with her Chinese teacher from PBHS, Mrs. Xiefeng Jia, in China and work as an assistant English teacher for Chinese elementary students.
Terwiliger will stay with Qian's family in Changzhou for the first 10 days, before leaving with Jia for Suzhou. Both cities are within close range of Shanghai.
Her mother, Della Colantone, said her first reaction to the idea was "No, not my baby." But she said her second reaction was, "OK, what are the steps?"
Colantone had taught her children to save money from birthdays and holidays, and these savings helped Terwiliger follow her dream of traveling. Terwiliger hopes to continue traveling after her trip to China.
"I want her to follow what she wants to do and not be afraid. ... She has to live her life," Colantone said. "I really, really want her to get more conversant in the language and the customs."
Family members helped Terwiliger prepare for this opportunity. One of Terwiliger's uncles came through with his frequent flyer miles and another uncle helped secure her visa.
Terwiliger, who did not already have a form of identification, had to first apply for a photo ID before she could obtain a passport.
Jia made arrangements for Terwiliger to work as an assistant English teacher to Chinese elementary students.
In addition to working in China, Terwiliger will visit Xi'an with Qian and Beijing with Jia. The work will help her fulfill six hours of required work-based training to graduate from Philip Barbour High School.
She also plans to submit a column for The Inter-Mountain about topics related to her trip.
Terwiliger has been studying Chinese for the past few years, but she said her Chinese is still "baby Chinese."
"She knows some basic things," Qian said. "I thought English was difficult though."
Since Jia and Qian both speak English, they will be able to help Terwiliger when she needs it.
Terwiliger will leave for China on June 10, taking flights from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Toronto, Canada, before finally going to Shanghai.