The pillows were unfamiliar as well. When Seibert first arrived at her host family's home, she was given a tour of the house and she noticed a funny pillow in the master bedroom. Essentially, it was a bunch of small stones strung together with an indent for a person's head.
She was later told it was her host father's pillow, and that this was not unusual.
"My pillow was a bag of rice," Walker said.
One of the most surprising things Cori experienced in China was that people always wanted to take photos of the group of Americans. If the students were taking a group photo at a shrine or some other landmark, random people passing on the street would stop and take their photos.
"It was funny — we went to the Great Wall and we got photographed," Cori said, adding that there were plenty of other foreigners at the site.
It was the differences in the day-to-day living that were the most surprising for the students. In fact, the scariest thing about the trip was one of the most familiar.
"Crossing the street," Cori said. "Traffic … going in every direction."
"There was no such thing as a stop sign," Seibert added. "And stoplights were like suggestions."
School in China is different too.
"It was 12 hours," Walker said of the school day.
"Then, on Friday, the principal will say, 'Oh, you have school on Saturday,' " Seibert said.
Cori's favorite part of the trip was just before the American students left Xi'an to visit Beijing toward the end of their stay. Her host father wanted to show her more of the countryside, so he took Cori on a tour of other provinces. When they reached the desert out west, Cori fell in love with it.
"It's like the most beautiful thing ever," Cori said. "You just want to stay there."
She even rode a camel in China's desert.
Cori has studied Chinese for three years.
"I love Chinese," she said.
Not all the American students were so proficient, and even Cori often struggled with the language.
At times, the American students relied on rudimentary sign language to communicate, but Walker noted something she'd learned on the trip that Johnson would probably find satisfying.
While cultures and languages differ, "a smile is universal," Walker said.
To read and see more of the Baltimore County students' visit to China, visit their travel blog online at http://www.travelpod.com/members/bcpschina.