13,948 miles around the world, 13 hours “ahead” of our families, and 14 days away from home, China was for many of us, an amazing adventure into the unknown. For me, the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China was an opportunity for personal and professional growth. To live on campus at the North China Electric Power University, interact with Chinese students and leaders, and taste so many unique Chinese dishes are a few of the things that made this trip a learning experience that I am excited to take home and share with my friends, family, and students.
I enjoyed every minute of my time visiting China, but I particularly enjoyed the visit the Beijing Ritan High School, the Great Wall, and the Confucius Institute Headquarters. The High School visit was an exceptional opportunity to get a glimpse of how the education system works in China, and I hope in the future there will be an opportunity for me to collaborate with the students and teachers of this school. When it was all said and done, it was a great reminder that kids are kids, and people are people, no matter where they come from or where they’re going.
In the future, I hope students visiting China through the same program will have the opportunity to learn more about the language and home life aspects of the culture. In regards to the language education, teaching practical language skills, such as shopping and ordering food, would be an excellent way to impart concrete language skills on the visitors. For example, students could study in a classroom, and then go to lunch together and practice ordering their food with their Chinese language skills. Additionally, the market near the university is a great place to practice shopping language skills, since many of the merchants speak little to no English. In regards to home life, I think it is an important part of understanding the culture. Although I do not have a recommendation on how to share that with visitors, it is something to consider.
Overall, I feel profoundly blessed and thankful for this opportunity. I have so much more to learn about China and Chinese culture and language, but thanks to this opportunity, I have a deeper interest in the pursuit of this knowledge. Additionally, I am excited to share the dance, the food, and my overall experience with my students here in the US in an effort to prepare them for the globalized world we live in today.
My experience in Beijing during the trip was a mixture of elation, discovery, and satisfaction. It was a worthy and important trip filled with friendship building not only between WKU participants, but also more importantly between our new Chinese friends and us.
When reflecting on an intense experience such as the recent trip to Beijing, images come to mind that are not only the most memorable but also the most important information to keep for years. The single most important accomplishment of our group was the friendships established with our new Chinese friends. From the director of the program at NCEPU whom we interacted with in a professional and friendly manner to our wonderful student hosts with whom we became lifelong friends, I hope, the person-to-person interactions were wildly successful.
While individuals established their own personal relationships, we all benefited from learning that we are not different from each other despite our cultural, political, and language separations. We all value our families above all else and we all enjoy the others’ companionship and fellowship.
Chinese families cherish their families intensely and we saw evidence of their devotion everywhere we traveled. Families were together sharing the experience of visiting the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, or anywhere else we roamed. It was wonderful to observe how the Chinese young people especially cherished their parents and grandparents. We frequently saw three or four generations within the same family sharing meals or simply spending time together.
It was also important for us to be immersed as much as we could within the city and people. I especially appreciated not being housed near an area with high tourist traffic. We walked across the street from campus and found ourselves in the ‘real Beijing’ in which common people ate, shopped, and lived their lives. Riding the subway during a busy time of day, experiencing public busses, seeing the people go about their lives was incredibly rewarding and interesting.
For many of us, it was our first experience at being a tiny minority in an ocean of people who did not speak our language. It forced us to learn some functional Chinese language in order to make basic communications and that was a great experience. Some in our group embraced their Chinese language skills more than others and forcing a few to attempt communication was a very good thing.
I took my daughter on this trip because I wanted her to see the future. She has had two years of Chinese language in her high school and it was the trip of her young lifetime. She befriended the college students, both American and Chinese, and has found inspiration to pursue studies through the Chinese Flagship program at WKU. Let me provide a small but meaningful exchange between her and I early in our trip as we departed the Great Wall. I said, ‘Say goodbye to the Great Wall’ and she said, ‘Oh, I’ll be back. This in only goodbye for now’. For me, that was all I needed to hear to know that the trip was a huge success. Thank you to the WKU Confucius Institute and the Hanban Institute for providing a glimpse into the future and to allow a small group of people from a rural state to make lifetime memories. XieXie.
Anton J. Stewart
The most important thing I took from this trip is the realization that there are a lot of people in the world that don’t live the same kind of life I do. We all know this from books and television, but until you see something for yourself, it’s hard to comprehend.
I found out what things I should appreciate, and which things could be better here in America. For example, in a city like Beijing, there are no quiet, secluded places. There seems to be a crowd of people everywhere. Growing up in the woods in Kentucky, this was different for me and sometimes overwhelming. I appreciate the abundance of resources, like hot water and electricity, here in America. Beijing, however, has qualities that American cities should try to imitate. Public transportation is very efficient there, which not only cuts down on traffic and environmental harm, but probably stimulates the economy in the city, as it is easy to go anywhere in Beijing and spend all of your money. The crime rate in Beijing is much lower than that of similar cities in America; I felt safer there than I would in a place like New York City or Chicago. Most of all, even though we were in a city of 25 million people, I could always find a way to slow things down and enjoy myself. Everywhere you look, you can find a place to sit down to have a relaxing meal or look at something beautiful with the people around you. That’s really important for me.
I don’t travel much, and I’ve never left the country, so I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Beijing. But I can say that I was extremely happy with the experience the trip gave me, and I feel like I have a good idea of what life in China (or at least Beijing) is like because of it. That was the primary goal for me on this trip.
My favorite thing about this trip is that we had Chinese students with us to show us around, and they were nice enough to take us to the places we wanted to see and show us some of their favorite parts of Beijing. It made the experience much more personal; it was during these times that I felt less like a tourist and more like someone who belonged there.
My least favorite thing about the trip was the language classes. I’ve studied Chinese for about a year, and sitting through the classes going over basic Chinese wasn’t enjoyable. I felt as though I could’ve been doing something different with my short time in Beijing.
I felt rushed most of the time. This is bound to happen when we only have two weeks to see everything Beijing has to offer. But we often tried to fit too many activities into a short time.
I think everyone would’ve liked if we had taken our language classes before we went to Beijing, then had more time to experience the city while we were there. Everyone would also have had the benefit of having more experience with the language when they get there.
I would’ve added cultural classes that pertain to more modern aspects of the culture. It would’ve been nice to see some things about modern Chinese families and social circles. I’d like to know about the way they live, how they act together, what they do together, etc. I also would’ve liked a class on how to act in a business setting in China, such as etiquette, how to negotiate, etc.
A morning trip to go see Chairman Mao’s body at Tiananmen would’ve been interesting.
Given the choice, I would not have gone to Prince Kung’s mansion. All of the other activities were very enjoyable.
I was extremely happy with the trip overall. I had a wonderful time doing everything on the schedule, and the time we had to ourselves was very well spent. It was an exciting time, and I can say that I was never bored. This was an opportunity that none of my family or friends has ever had, and I am so thankful to have been asked to go. I can’t wait to go back to China!
WKU Confucius Institute
May 2012 Chinese Summer Camp
Trip Report – George Rasmussen
As a Management Executive-in-Residence at the Western Kentucky University, Gordon Ford College of Business, my reflections are drawn from the unique opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Beijing China attending the Chinese sponsored Language and Cultural Exchange Summer Camp. I have, the Chinese Ministry of Education, Hanban, Confucius Institute, WKU College of Business Management Department, the WKU Confucius Institute and the North China Electric Power University to thank for this opportunity to study abroad.
This trip provided a research opportunity to gain valuable insights in the area of understanding the Chinese business model and relating the model to US businesses as they strive to work with Chinese firms. The experiences gained from this language and cultural exchange trip will enhance my Business Management classroom instruction especially in the areas of international trends in management; understanding the impact of cultural diversity as it relates to productivity; and the globalization of organizations. Of equal value to me is the professional development opportunities afforded by this trip that have broaden my international business consulting skills in relation to doing business with Chinese companies.
The camp agenda was very full and the execution was accomplished to successfully fill almost every available minute. A trip to Xian and the Terracotta Warriors would be a very special opportunity that would be of great interest to future travelers. An expansion of occasions for extensive interaction and small group conversations with NCEPU faculty and students both during formal classroom sessions and through the addition of informal meeting opportunities would be a great benefit to both the Chinese and WKU participants.
This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am extremely fortunate to have been a participant. The activities and classroom instruction sessions were conducted in a very professional manner. I returned from China with a great respect for the accomplishments of the people of China and a true understanding of how friendly the Chinese people are as we engaged in sharing our individual life experiences. Each of the students and faculty members that we encountered was both very well educated and eager to help us. My impression is that China is a vast nation with a very energetic population. China is a land of contrasts with the many different geographic settings and a large variety of demographics. I have to admire the past and present Chinese for creating the massive projects like the Great Wall, the bullet train and the modern cities of Beijing and Tianjin.
To wrap up, I would like to reflect on what may be the most unexpected and greatest gift of this Summer Camp study abroad experience and that is the profound sense of revitalization travelers felt upon returning home. The exhilaration of having successfully navigated an alien environment, perfected successful coping strategies and communicated on many occasions without the benefit of a common language drives a deep sense of “I MET THE CHINESE CHALLENGE” so future challenges may be met with a “YES I CAN ACHIEVE” attitude.
WKU Ed.D Student
During the WKU Confucius Institute trip abroad we learned about the language and culture of China. When we were not studying and learning the Chinese language, we were learning about the people, the history, and China’s current worldly status. I enjoyed learning the basics of the Chinese language and Pin Yin. The language instructor was very effective in her teaching strategies. The language learning sessions were fun, encouraging, and met the needs of the various language abilities represented in our group.
The excursions during our stay were definitely one of the more enjoyable experiences. However, there were a couple outings that did not meet my expectations. It is my suggestion for future groups to not visit The Great Wall of China and the Summer Palace in the same day. While both are great experiences, it was very strenuous on group members to have stopped at the jade manufacturing company, climb the Great Wall, and then proceed to the Summer Palace. Also, when visiting the 2008 Olympic sites, there was not a need for a tour guide. Most of the Olympic sites have informative plaques and brochures displayed and are very easy to navigate.
One of my favorite excursions was visiting the Confucius Institute Headquarters. I was important to me to see the institute which gave us the opportunity to have such and experience. The headquarters was enlightening and encouraging. My favorite aspect of the institute was the interactive activities that were available for us. Trying on the opera garments and taking computerized assessments of our knowledge of various language and culture aspects was rewarding and placed value on the knowledge we were getting from our classroom sessions.
I believe that the language and culture classes, free time, and the excursions were well balanced. Overall, this trip was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I would encourage anyone who is interested in learning about another country, culture, and/or language; this is the trip to attend.
The trip to China was an experience of a lifetime for me. I have read many books on the history, culture and people of China; however, experiencing the impact of the history and culture of China on its people was definitely the most intriguing thing I learned on the trip. Due to the youth of America, Americans cannot grasp the impact of 5000 years of history on a society. The Chinese people seemed to be comfortable in their station in life and this is unlike many Americans as they struggle with identity and understand who they are in the world. There seemed to be a peace to all the people as they went about their daily lives.
The most enjoyable part of the trip was working with Leonard and Sooki. Having these two as guides for the group really enhanced the educational opportunity for myself. They were extremely hard workers, conscientious and fun to be around during our trip. They are very exceptional individuals with bright futures. The trip would not have been the same without them.
Suggestions for Future Trips
The mains suggestion I have for future trips is to slow down and not do so many places during one day. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and other locations are special locations that need more time to be explored and visited. It seemed like we literally ‘ran’ through the Summer Palace.
The other suggestion I have concerns organization. I do appreciate the flexibility of the CI staff to change the schedule to accommodate our desires to visit various locations like the Beijing Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, etc. However, there were times when participants did not know where to be or when to be there. This can be attributed to a lack of communication from North Power university leader to our group leader. On many occasions, phone calls were exchanged minutes before participants were to be at a new location either for class or other business.
One Final Item
Terrill Martin was excellent. He was well prepared and concerned that each member had a great experience. Western Kentucky University is blessed to employ his services. Terrill really made the trip exceptional.
Thank you for the experience of a lifetime,