Students Experience China's History, Diversity, Culture
Traveling from rural to urban areas in China, students in Liping Bu’s “China Past and Present” Spring Term class learned why the country is a land of diversity.
“China is not just Shanghai or Beijing,” says the Alma College history professor. “It’s a huge country where local customs are very distinct. This class gives students the opportunity to experience the many facets of China in terms of both economic and social development.”
Through visits to sites such as the Terracotta Army and Tiananmen Square, the class also gained an understanding of the country’s rich history.
Professor Liping Bu (far left) and her students at the Great Wall.
Bill McHenry, 2011 alumnus, says while he enjoyed all the sites, two particular places stick out in his mind: the Hanging Monasteries and the Great Wall.
“The Hanging Monasteries are 200 feet off the ground, supported on the side of a cliff by 600-year-old wooden poles,” he says. “It was thrilling walking through the monastery, where only a few inches of ancient wood kept you from the ground. Words cannot describe how it feels to be on the Great Wall, either.”
In addition, the class met with Chinese students while visiting universities. Students had the opportunity to observe what the college experience is like on the other side of the world.
“Students were able to talk to Chinese students about everything from what their dorms were like to what their dreams were like,” she says. “I think this interaction gave them a different perspective of their own studies and lives.”
Traveling to a foreign country isn’t without its challenges, especially when there’s a language barrier. Bu prepared her students by teaching them several useful phrases. She says she was especially proud when they were able to order soy sauce at a restaurant without her assistance.
“Even though many of them don’t speak the language, they were very thoughtful throughout the trip,” she says. “I was impressed with their keen observations.”
While adjusting to a new food pyramid also proved to be difficult for some students, McHenry says international travel has taught him the importance of keeping an open mind.
“Often what you hear and read is not entirely accurate,” he says. “This experience made me realize how similar the Chinese are to us. The differences are rather pale in comparison to the similarities.”
Bu originally planned to take the class to Japan as well, but the devastation of this year’s earthquake made that part of the trip impossible. Nonetheless, McHenry says he will remember the class for the rest of his life.
“The China I saw was very different from the China you hear about,” he says. “We really experienced everyday Chinese culture by visiting a Chinese family and riding on the overnight train and eating in the same restaurants as the locals.”
Posted: Wed, June 29th, 2011 at 8:26AM