Inaugural Beijing summer program huge success

Exposes students to culture, life in China


By Jen Sobolewski

A group of Bowling Green State University students and faculty sit in the living room of a Chinese artist as he pours them tea and introduces them to his family. It's one of Martin Slavens' favorite memories from the inaugural Beijing Summer Program.

Dr. Yiju Huang, of the Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages, organized the 30-day study abroad trip to Beijing and Xi'an as part of her department's effort to expand the University's Asian Studies Program and newly developed Chinese minor. Martin Slavens, an instructor in the political science department, served as program coordinator.

Students lived and studied at Tsinghua University during their time in Beijing.

"In both of those places I was filled with an awe-inspired feeling""This is different from the other Chinese study abroad programs on campus," said Huang. "This was a cultural program and not based on a student's major. The program consisted of three parts - classes on the campus of Tsinghua, field trips to historical sites, and visits to local companies.

"The goal was to give students more of a general glimpse into the essence of Chinese culture. They learned different aspects of Chinese culture: art, Chinese medicine, philosophy, political economy and ethnic minorities," Huang said.

It's the Chinese people's love for their culture that has stuck with trip participant Adam Roberts, a senior from Painesville majoring in international studies.

"Every morning I was going to class and they were practicing tai chi, or some kind of martial art," Roberts explained. "Even though China has been through so much, the Cultural Revolution, wars, the Chinese always keep their culture. The country is becoming an economic powerhouse and so much is being changed and updated, but you still see them doing traditional dances."

The Chinese often do those traditional dances and martial arts in the shadow of scaffolding and towering buildings. "Until you get there you can't imagine how much China is building," Roberts said. "They're building skyscrapers like crazy. I know as Americans we're building too, but not like this."

Sage Panter, a senior from Bowling Green majoring in Asian studies, was most struck by two very well known historical sites, the Great Wall of China and the terracotta soldiers of Xi'an.

"In both of those places I was filled with an awe-inspired feeling," she said. "These places are so old, huge and amazing."

Along with trips to the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace and the Olympic Stadium, the group visited the Beijing Hyundai plant and went to a biomedical company in a developing sector of the city.

"It was a unique opportunity for students to get a look into some of Tsinghua's business partnerships that are happening off campus," Slavens said.

They also toured Peking University, the Beijing 798 Arts District and the apartment of Huang's sister in Beijing.

While food in a different culture can be a challenge for some Americans, Panter welcomed the chance to try new dishes. "We had everything from beef to lotus roots. I even tried scorpion, which wasn't as bad as you may think."

"The students came back with a good sense of what it's like to be in China, live in China and study in China," Slavens said.

Updated: 12/02/2017 12:55AM