Project Pengyou


Alexandra Sukin

This article is by E.J. Mitchell ’08, with a footnote by Sissi Fei ’15. E.J. Mitchell is a current Middle School Intern at CCDS. 

5’11”. 225. 20. That was me three years ago when I first left to study abroad in Beijing during my junior year at Amherst College. Now slightly taller, slightly bigger, and slightly older, I have found my way back to Country Day and hope to bring my passion for China’s culture and language to our community. As Country Day further diversifies its student body with the admission of international students, it is crucial that we continue to promote inclusiveness not only in thought but also in practice. With the help of Sissi Fei and Riva Jia, I have worked to rally support for the launch of the CCDS chapter of Project Pengyou. was conceived as the alumni network of the presidential campaign’s 100,000 Strong Initiative and has been endorsed by the former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and the former US Ambassador to China Gary Locke. It is a growing global grassroots network of China study abroad alumni that seek to empower students to serve as bridge-builders for US-China relations and promotes the study of Mandarin and China study abroad in the US.

In an effort to demystify China and breakdown cultural barriers, Project Pengyou CCDS is developing the Pengyou Program, a social platform designed to welcome new international students into the Country Day community. The word pengyou–Mandarin for friend–is the operative word of this initiative. By pairing current Country Day students and alumni with incoming international students, the Pengyou Program aims to build sustainable friendships within the CCDS community. The program’s significance is two-fold in that it not only eases the transition of newly admitted students, but it also provides opportunities for American students to directly engage with people from different cultures in a low-risk environment.

The Pengyou Program is one of many initiatives that the chapter wishes to see to fruition at Country Day, and it is a direct product of the skills I gained while attending the inaugural Project Pengyou Leadership Training Summit at Harvard earlier this March. As a Project Pengyou Leadership Fellow, I am thrilled and grateful that Sissi, Riva, and I have garnered tremendous support from Mr. Black, Mrs. Beyreis, Dr. Hecker, Mr. Kellenberger, and Mrs. Luebbers amongst others. We hope the enthusiasm will spread throughout the upper school student body, as well as to the middle and lower schools as we build leadership capacity in anticipation for the official launch of the CCDS chapter this October. All those interested—faculty, staff, or student—can learn more about Project Pengyou at or contact one of us. We are all pengyou. We dare you to join us!

Friendly note: According to Mr. Aaron Kellenberger, the director of admission at Country Day, there will be 5 new Chinese international students joining us this fall: an 8th grader, two freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. They are coming from 5 different cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shijiazhuang and Urumqi.  “We have been trying to assist the international students with better transition to Country Day,” said Mr. Kellenberger. “We always hope that our international students can stay with Country Day families but we don’t always have enough hosts.” It will be a great experience to host a student from another country, to learn about their stories and their cultures. If you are interested in hosting an international student during the 2014-2015 school year, please contact Mr. Kellenberger or the admission office!