Students from the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), Minnesota, USA, enjoyed a two week short term programme in China, where they learnt about Chinese business and culture both inside and outside of the classroom.

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Their visit began on 29 December 2017 with a welcoming dinner before they were given the night off to sleep off their jetlag.

According to CSS English Professor, Dr Tom Zelman, who accompanies the students on the trip, this has been the seventh time CSS has sent students to Zhuhai for this programme. The programme began in 2008 when CSS and UIC signed an agreement for a student exchange programme. This short term programme is organized and executed by the International Development Office (IDO), with heavy involvement from the Director of IDO, Dr Katharina Yu, and Administrative Officer, Jessica Xiao.

Dr Zelman said that CSS recruits in a several ways for this programme, and that it usually draws about half its students from Management, Finance, and Accounting majors.

Year Two CSS student, Jade Nelson, who is double majoring in Management and Marketing, said she applied to do this programme because it was one of the reasons that drew her to attending CSS. She always wanted to go to Asia and this was the perfect opportunity to “get immersed in the culture with the bonus of earning some credits.”

Year Four CSS student, Alicia Tipcke, with a double major in History and Communication, said she applied to the programme because she has always been interested in Chinese culture since she was a kid and was excited to take this trip through her school. “It was a great way to see beautiful places, historical buildings and areas, and get to know some locals,” said Alicia. 

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Image3Students visit the Yayue hall and recieve a Guqin demonstration

Waking up bright and early on 30 December, the students headed to UIC to take in a campus tour, which included visiting the Yayue (court music) hall, where UIC houses several Chinese tradition instruments. Jade thought that the structure of UIC was very interesting, much like western universities but improved and innovative to be more effective. The visiting students were very impressed with the new campus, commenting that it was beautiful and reminded them of their liberal arts campus in Minnesota.

In the Yayue hall, students got a demonstration of the Guqin as well as several of the Chinese bells. After viewing several other campus buildings and getting acquainted with IDO, including the Global Commons Space, students began their first class with the Director of Whole Person Education Office, Dr Guo Haipeng.

Image4Dr Katharina Yu introduces students to the Global Commons Space

Image5Dr Guo lectures students about Whole Person Education

Dr Guo taught students about UIC’s philosophy of educating students as whole persons, which is one of UIC’s unique offerings. He began his lecture by discussing how traditional liberal arts and the Chinese ‘six arts’ have come together at UIC to create a Chinese take on traditional liberal arts education. He also discussed challenges that China has had with implementation of liberal arts, which included the past one child policy, an exam oriented schooling system as well as China searching for its own direction. He discussed how UIC aims to bridge the gap by offering a balance between academic excellence and whole person development to its students.

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In the afternoon, students learnt their first words in Chinese with Chinese Language and Culture Centre (CLC) Associate Professor, Dr Jenny Cui. Students learnt how to greet each other in Chinese, and practiced the basics of pinyin as well as other important words and phrases.

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On 31 December, students were back at UIC for more lectures. However, the morning began with a more relaxed Taijiquan class, led by Division of Science and Technology (DST) Associate Professor and Programme Director of Applied Psychology, Dr Ghee Wee Ho. Demonstrating the moves was WPEO Facilitator, Prof Zhuang Anjuan. Students enjoyed learning how to apply their energy through Taijiquan and many remarked that afterwards they felt very relaxed and ready to start their days.

Next up, students had a course on the Chinese Economy led by Division of Business and Management (DBM) Assistant Professor, Dr Darren Weng. He began his talk by discussing China’s history and how it plays a role in the Chinese Economy today. Dr Weng also highlighted how the politics, geography and economy all tie in together. In the afternoon, Dr Weng lectured the students again, this time with a focus on how to do business in China. He elaborated on his morning lecture, and answered the many questions that students had.

Image12Dr Weng teaches students about the Chinese economy

After their courses, the students were given free time to explore Zhuhai, and got to see the famous Fisher Girl statue as well as the Opera House. It was a full day for the students, so the next day they were excited for a relaxing tour of Zhuhai.

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Image15Students are given a tour of Qi'ao Island's Baishi street

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Image16The students visit Putuo temple

Image18Students finish their day with a relaxing visit to the hot springs

On 1 January, the students began their new year with a visit to Qi’ao island, where they visited the famous Baishi street, checking out the temples along the way. IDO Administrative Assistants, Andy Chen and Ann Hu, accompanied the students for the day trip, assisting with any translations, and helping to guide the students. The next stop for the students was Putuo Temple, which was very busy due to the holiday. The students then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at the hot springs in Doumen, which many commented was a great way to kick off the new year.

Image19The students pose in front of the Ruins of St Paul's in Macao

On 2 January, visiting students had the opportunity to visit Macao, led by CSS Alumni and currently an intern at the English Language Centre (ELC), Jamie Siemsen. The students enjoyed walking the streets of Macao, and visiting the Ruins of St Paul’s.

After two days of sightseeing, the students were back to class, starting their morning on 3 January with a lecture given by Division of Humanities and Social Sciences (DHSS) Associate Professor, Dr Edgar Yuen. Students learnt about China’s role in the rapidly changing world, with Dr Yuen discussing the importance of China’s history in its current affairs today.

Image20Dr Yuen lectures the students on China's role in the world

Image21Dr Islam hands out Chinese Traditional Medicine samples for the students to look at

Image22Prof Sung joins the CSS visiting professors and Dr Yu for the certificate awarding ceremony

In the afternoon, students were given their last lecture by General Education Office (GEO) Associate Professor, Dr Nazrul Islam. Dr Islam introduced Traditional Chinese Medicine to the students, talking about its history, and why it has been reducing in popularity in comparison with western medicine. Dr Islam handed around samples of different products for students to take a look at. After the class, students received certificates of completion from Katharina Yu for their participation in the programme. Dean of DHSS, Prof Sung Mei-hwa, also joined for the certificate awarding ceremony.

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On 4 January, the students took a day trip into Guangzhou with Andy and another IDO colleague, Senior Administrative Officer Kayla Huang, where they got to visit the Six Banyan Trees, Chen Clan Academy, and then explored Shamian Island. In the afternoon, the students visited Baoman Gardens before heading back to Zhuhai.

On 5 January, their last day in Zhuhai, the students had the opportunity to visit Electech International Company, where they saw various showrooms of appliances and LED lights, highlighting what the company produced. Afterward a visit to the art museum, the students took part in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony before visiting Yan Clen Academy, and ended their day trip with a visit to Haibin Yongchang Beach. After a farewell dinner in the evening, students headed back to their hotel to pack for the rest of their trip to Shanghai.

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Image31Students enjoy their guided tour of Electech International Company

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Image33Students learn about different styles of Chinese art

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Image36The students enjoy experiencing the traditional Chinese tea ceremony

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During this trip, Alicia learnt that modern China is a mixture of traditional Chinese and Western innovations. She said “It was interesting to be in such a different place, sometimes feeling great culture shock, and other times feeling as if I am just in a different city in the US. This trip has taught me a lot more about the modern day culture of China. Much of what I knew about China was Chinese history. Now I am more aware of China’s role in the world economy, and how everyday people live in China.”

After a five day cultural trip to Shanghai accompanied by IDO staff members, Jessica and Ann, students headed back to CSS in Minnesota, bringing with them memories and lessons from China. Students enjoyed their visit to China, with many commenting that it was much different than they expected.

Dr Zelman remarked that “A programme such as this one complements the kinds of learning that takes place in on-campus courses. From classroom discussions and textbooks, the students already know that a world exists out there with people whose cultures differ from theirs.  Walking along Chinese streets, meeting Chinese people, eating Chinese meals, and hearing from Chinese guides makes this real.  Students evaluate what they experience on-site and juxtapose their programme experiences with the routines of their American lives.  For many students, this experience creates the desire to travel more, to learn more about the world.”

Dr Zelman’s favourite part of this trip is getting to watch students adapt to and enjoy living in another country. He enjoys listening to them as they process what they are learning, and is proud of how they work at being respectful guests in another nation. He said that “Our student group this year was a really good one, adventurous and up for everything.”

Reporter/Photographer: Samantha Burns
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He
(from MPRO)

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