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PHOENIX -- Two Valley high school students are getting an opportunity to not only learn a new language, but to also experience it.

Cactus Shadows High School juniors Samuel Slack and Dominique Troyanos were selected from more than 5,000 applicants to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth to have an opportunity to travel abroad over the summer to study a new language.

Those selected by the program were given a choice of seven countries to which they could travel, and both Slack and Troyanos chose to study in the Sichuan province in China, where they will spend six weeks learning Mandarin while being immersed in the Chinese culture.

Slack said he is very excited about the trip and the unique experience it offers.

"It's always fun when you can communicate with people that live halfway across the world, and you can read a menu or talk to people about really interesting stuff when they have a completely different background," Slack said.

Troyanos said this will be her fourth language, but said she considers it one of the most important.

"It's the one that I have the most interest in because it's so different from anything I've ever tried before," she said. "It's also economically becoming very important that we can communicate and understand the Chinese culture."

Both students will live with host families and spend hours studying Mandarin every day.

Slack and Troyanos will first leave for New York on July 5, then depart for China two days later. Slack said they will return to the U.S. on Aug. 21.

Mark Remillard,

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