For most it was their first trip to a foreign country. For many it won't be their last.
Nearly 100 students from Tacoma's Lincoln High School said they learned a lot during an 11-day tour through China this month.
The trip taught them out about the history of Beijing's Forbidden City and Great Britain's colonization of Hong Kong, but students like junior Alicia Dorman learned there's more to the world than Tacoma.
"Amazing. Awesome. Out of this world experience," said Dorman, who had not been on a plane before the trip.
Now she's thinking about eventually studying or working in China.
"This is a trip that's going to inspire the rest of my trips," said senior Dashawana Johnson.
Before heading to China, the furthest Johnson had traveled was Seattle – once.
"My life has totally been changed after these 11 days here," said sophomore Marko O'Kelley, who said he was the first in his family to travel outside of the United States.
The students were invited on the trip by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited their Tacoma campus in September 2015.
The Chinese government paid for the 97 students and their chaperones to visit China.
Never before has the People's Republic of China sponsored a visit by an American group of students.
While climbing the Great Wall and seeing eight baby pandas at a zoo were highlights for the students, most said interacting with Chinese teenagers during school visits is what they'll remember the most.
"I love the people here. I love that they’re always smiling at us," said Dorman. "There’s this huge language barrier, but there’s always smiles.”