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PHOENIX -- Several Phoenix middle school students began the trip of a lifetime Tuesday to meet their pen pals who live thousands of miles away.

"I'm so excited for them," said Kadi Angeli, a counselor at Sonoran Trails Middle School. "My hope for every child who studies a foreign language is that it will broaden their horizon. I hope this trip shows them how big the world is and what opportunities exist for them out there."

Six students, along with the school's principal, are visiting China for two weeks. Sonoran Trails started their current sister school program with the help of the Dept. of State and two grants. The school's first relationship is with No. 6 Middle School in Yichang, Hubei Province in 2012.

Since establishing the relationship, the children have kept in touch via email, letters and videos.

The visit will be the first for either school.

The goal is to expand the current program to allow for more Sonoran Trails students who are not only studying Mandarin, but French and Spanish, to have the opportunity to be immersed in the culture.

On this trip -- paid for by each student's parents -- they'll visit historic sights in cities like Beijing and Xi'an before meeting with their Chinese peers at the school.

Sandra Haros , Reporter

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