The article below originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner and is being reprinted with permission.

Students at College of San Mateo, and other SMCCCD campuses, are eligible for the three-week immersion program.

Students at College of San Mateo, and other SMCCCD campuses, are eligible for the three-week immersion program.

Students from the San Mateo County Community College District are expected to be the first in California to have the opportunity to apply for a program to travel to China, free of charge, to study the language and learn about the nation’s economics and relationship with the U.S.

“It’s exciting,” said district Chancellor Ron Galatolo. “We have a number of students who come here from China, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to send our folks to China.”

Gov. Jerry Brown announced the new program Wednesday during his trip to Beijing. It will be funded by a $250,000 grant from the Florence Fang Foundation.

“The best way for students to learn about China is to go to China,” Brown said in a statement. “Through this program, students will forge great friendships in one of the world’s most creative and dynamic countries.”

The program is expected to begin sending students to China in 2014. It is part of the larger 100,000 Strong initiative, whose goal is to send that many students from the U.S. to China by 2015.

It’s unclear exactly how many students have participated already, but representatives from the foundation said more than 60,000 students have agreed to go in the three years since the program began. It was started in 2010 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Though the new program is still in its infancy, Galatolo said the goal will be to send a few dozen students to China for a “mini-mester,” roughly three to five weeks, and immerse them in the language, culture and ideology of the country.

The program will complement the one that recruits international students to San Mateo County for two years to give them course work to prepare for transfer to a university. Many of the students who take advantage of that type of transfer are Chinese, Galatolo said.

Anyone interested in going abroad can apply, but the program is aiming for underserved students.

“It’s why community colleges are a focal point,” Galatolo said.

The San Mateo County district was chosen because the Florence Fang Foundation is based in San Mateo. The foundation is run by the Fang family, who owned The San Francisco Examiner from 2000 to 2004.