Chinese coaches and athletes from Beijing Sport University enjoy American culture and cuisine.[/media-credit]

Milk, ice cream, beer and, of course, cheese. These well-known staples of Wisconsin cuisine are also the favorite foods of two athletes and two coaches from China who are attending the University of Wisconsin this semester.

As part of UW’s Chinese Champions Program, the students from Beijing Sport University will take classes in English as a second language and kinesiology, while also exploring the world of sports in the United States.

Nine people in total are at UW from BSU, seven athletes and the two coaches.

Since arriving on July 23, the students have started their courses and traveled around Wisconsin.

Fu Tianyu, a world champion speed skater, said she’s excited to study and improve her English.

Visiting sports facilities has also been a common theme of the trip.

The students boasted tours of Camp Randall Stadium, the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee and a trip to Miller Park for a Brewers game.

Lu Xiudong, coach of the Chinese national taekwondo team, said traveling to the U.S. gives the students the opportunity to observe how American teams operate. Upon learning what they can from their athletic American hosts, they can then take back to China.

“[We] also want to learn from Americans’ teams…to see how they train their athletes and how they manage their club,” Xiudong said.

While the athletes are here to learn about sports, taking in American culture is also a top priority.

The students want to assimilate into life at UW as fully as possible, Xie Yong, coach of the Chinese national men’s weightlifting team said.

“[We] want to treat [ourselves] as a normal student here so … [we] take the bus to class every day, [we] eat on State Street,” Yong said.

Being “normal” UW students includes participating in UW traditions such as football games, parties and Halloween.

Attending Freakfest is an exciting endeavor for the group, although they would not say who or what they are planning to dress up as.

“It’s a secret,” Xiudong said.

Parties, in particular are different in China here because there everyone meets at a restaurant rather than a house or apartment, Xiudong — who loves hosting parties in China — said.

Already the students have explored State Street, eating pizza from Ian’s and Chinese food from Fugu.

Dairy products are the clear winner as their favorite American foods, especially ice cream, milk and cheese.

A bronze medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in curling, Wang Bingyu said coming to UW was an amazing opportunity for the group, not only to experience American culture but also to help them with careers after they retire.

In addition to learning from students at UW, the athletes and coaches hope UW students can learn from them as well, which is part of the incentive of improving their English.

“[I] want to get better at English so [I] can get to know a lot of people and make more friends here at Madison,” Xiudong said.

The athletes’ program runs through December 15.

Check back for video supplements to this article.