Top ten reasons to spend the summer with your family at SCPKU

By Donna Norton


When my husband, Michael McFaul, proposed spending part of the summer with our kids (ages 17 and 12) at the Stanford Center at Peking Univeristy in Beijing, I was a little apprehensive.  What would the kids do?  Visions of a chaotic, hot and smoggy megalopolis flashed through my brain.  If you are considering spending some time at Peking University, you may be having these fears too.  For the sake of you, the unknown reader with restless kids, I’m writing this blog post to encourage you to make the trek.  Yes, there were definitely days when the smog kept us inside, but we still had a fantastic time.  So, in David Letterman style, here’s my top ten list of reasons why Stanford’s PKU Center is a great place for kids:

1)   Where else can you get up in the morning and take walk in the shadow of a pagoda around a beautiful lake filled with water lilies?  The biggest surprise for me was how beautiful and peaceful the Peking University campus is.

2)   Chinese food!  My kids fell in love with Chinese food.  By the end of our trip, my son was asking for noodle soup for breakfast and complaining when I gave him a fork instead of chopsticks to eat it with.

3)   Riding a toboggan down the Great Wall of China!  Yes, it’s true, you can take a chair lift up to the Great Wall of China and toboggan down.  (We figured it was safe because there were photos of Michelle Obama riding the toboggan so it must have been cleared by the Secret Service.)

4)   Air conditioning!  Yes it hot in Beijing, but we had great air conditioning in our apartment and cars and restaurants are almost all air conditioned so we didn’t spend that much time sweating. 

5)   Chinese language!  The Stanford Center helped us find a Chinese language teacher for our kids and they loved their private lessons.

6)   Exotic and scary food at the Beijing Night Food Market – nothing builds your street cred with teenagers faster than posting photos on Instagram of live scorpions on a shish-kabob.

7)   Cool internship opportunities!  Our high school age son had a very cool and unique internship in Beijing. 

8)   A break from the drudgery of cooking!  We walked to restaurants for lunch and dinner every night from our apartment on campus because why bother cooking when the restaurants are so cheap and good? 

9)   Places to work off the daily Peking Duck calories!  If you want, there are gyms within walking distance from the apartments.  And if your kids would rather surf the internet than exercise, there’s wi-fi at the apartment we stayed at and at the Stanford Center.

10)    China!  The Stanford Center at Peking University happens to be located in China, which is an amazing country with a fascinating history, culture, and otherworldly natural beauty.  Definitely an enriching and unforgettable experience for the kids and adults!

My advice?  Don’t miss it!  If you have questions, feel free to contact me at


The view of our partment building and the water lilies
Photo credit:  Donna Norton


Arriving at the Stanford Center at Peking University
Photo credit:  Donna Norton