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Jul 10, 2013 08:11 AM EDT

Two Chinese Students Killed In Plane Crash Were On Board to Attend a 15-Day Summer Camp In US

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The two 16-year-old Chinese students killed in the crash of Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 at San Francisco's international airport, Saturday, were on their way to America to enhance their English proficiency and increase their chances of acquiring admission in a U.S. university.

Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan were classmates at Jiangshan Middle School in eastern China for four years. Over the period of time, they became close friends.

Linjia was the class monitor for three years and excelled in physics, calligraphy and drawing. Her neighbour in Zhejiang, in eastern China, described her as a calm, well-mannered and hard-working girl.

"She was very keen to learn. Every time she came home she would be studying. Very rarely did she go out and play," Xia said.

Xia said that Linjia's father was very proud of her work and displayed her calligraphy and art pieces on the walls of his office.

On the other hand, Mengyuan was a topper in literature and was good at playing the piano, singing, and gymnastics. Recently, she won a national gymnastics competition and numerous accolades at the school's annual speech contests.

Linjia and Mengyuan were flying to America to attend a 15-day summer camp, worth $5,000.

In the academic year 2011-12, about 200,000 Chinese students pursued higher education in the U.S., representing the country's highest international student population.

This figure is part of a growing trend adopted among wealthy and middle-class Chinese families who do not shy away from spending thousands of dollars to build a better future for their children. They think it is a better option when compared to putting their children through China's harshly competitive education system.

According to the English-language China Daily more than 60,000 Chinese students planned to go to summer camps in the U.S. in 2011. Industry experts believe that the figures doubled in the past two years.

Parents feel that summer trips could give their children an edge over others when applying for universities in U.S., and at the same time it could help them get acquainted to the cultural and linguistic traditions.

According to Alex Abrahams, the general manager of Shanghai-based Blue Sky Study, the demand for such summer programs increased significantly over the last five years.

"Those kids sooner or later will go to U.S. schools, and the trip is an opportunity for them to get to know the U.S. and help them choose a university later," said Yan Jiaqi of Beijing-based education consultant.

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