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Visiting Chinese students bask in icy beauty of Northland

After a tour of the train and historical museums at the Depot, students from Dalian, China, walk to City Hall to visit with Duluth Mayor Don Ness during a tour of the city Tuesday. In the foreground is Zhang Chenxi. (Bob King / / 2
Wang Shuilin (left) and Pan Xinyi laugh Tuesday as they work a handcar together in the Lake Superior Train Museum at the Depot. Enjoying the show are fellow students Shi Yiran and Fan Meichen. The students, from Dalian, China, have been in town learning about American culture. On Tuesday they visited several museums in town and met with the mayor. (Bob King / / 2

Friendly, beautiful and cold are a few adjectives foreign exchange students from Dalian, China, used to describe Duluth on Tuesday.

"Duluth is a very beautiful place, I plan to visit again someday," said sophomore Wang Shuiin. "I love seeing everything covered in snow."

Thirty students from the Dalian University of Technology have spent the past two weeks in Duluth with their host families. The students, ranging in age from 14 to 16, have attended Duluth East High School, Denfeld High School and Esko High School to learn more about American culture.

"My host family was very accepting and friendly," said freshman Pan Xinyi. "They took me cross-country skiing and I had a blast."

On Tuesday, the students learned outside the classroom by taking a tour around Duluth.

It started at the Depot in downtown Duluth, where students saw the trains used on the historic Northern Pacific Railway. They took pictures and walked through the enormous trains. Then the students walked up to City Hall, to meet Mayor Don Ness and ask him questions about the city and its government. At the end of the meeting, they presented Ness with a Dalian sweatshirt and took "selfies" with him. The students then had lunch at Grandma's and ended the tour at the Great Lakes Aquarium.

"I've really enjoyed this cold weather," said sophomore Xu Kaiying. "I especially like Duluth East. High school here is so different."

Ed Crawford, assistant superintendent of the Duluth school district, received an email from one of the English teachers at Dalian University of Technology last October asking if her students could visit Duluth in February.

"I traveled to Dalian a year ago as a part of a delegation made up of schools and superintendents," Crawford said. "The gist of the meeting was to have a group of students spend time at our high schools in Duluth. This worked out perfectly because this is their winter break."

Dalian University of Technology and other schools in Dalian have also invited Duluth high school students to visit China next summer. Dalian is a major city and seaport in the south of Liaoning province in northeastern China with a population of about 3.24 million.