Jessica Shao said she never enjoyed taking a bus so much.

Shao, a sophomore at Lynbrook High School, was one of 15 students nationwide invited to live and study for six weeks last summer in Zhuhai, China, through a National Security Language Initiative for Youth Scholarship, funded by the U.S. Department of State.

As part of the program, Shao lived with a local family and traveled 90 minutes each way on public buses to attend up to six hours of Mandarin language classes a day at Beijing Normal University.

"My commute was the most difficult part of the trip, but it was also the most rewarding," said Shao, 15, who said she was the youngest student in her group. "Although it was harder at first, I think I had a richer experience than the students who lived in campus."

To qualify for the program, Shao submitted a series of essays last spring and then was interviewed by scholarship officials in Manhattan. While in China, she visited sites including the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

"Jessica wants to learn and she will go to any length to do that," said Jonathan Spector, her guidance counselor.

At Lynbrook High School, Shao plays violin and is a member of the cross-country team and the Japanese Club.

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