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"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," he said.
While there are no firm figures available on how many students take these trips, the English-language China Daily reported in 2011 that more than 60,000 Chinese students planned to go to summer camps in the U.S., and the number probably has increased substantially in the past two years, according to industry insiders.
Wang and Ye were classmates at a Jiangshan school known for its students' high academic caliber, the Youth Times said. Wang was class monitor for three years, and teachers and schoolmates described her as excelling in physics and being good at calligraphy and drawing, according to the paper.
Ye also was a top student who excelled in literature, playing the piano, singing, and gymnastics. The Youth Times said Ye recently won a national gymnastics competition and routinely received honors at the school's annual speech contests.
The two girls were classmates from four years ago and became close friends, the paper said.
The girls posted their last messages on their microblog accounts Thursday and Friday. "Perhaps time can dilute the coffee in the cup, and can polish the outlines of memory," Wang wrote on her microblog Friday.
Her final message was simply the word "go."
Of the 291 passengers onboard, 141 were Chinese. At least 70 Chinese students and teachers were on the plane heading to summer camps, according to education authorities in China.