Groups travel abroad to China

Mackenzie Mathews

A faculty-led study abroad program took 19 students to China during Winter Term, where students were able to study and experience Chinese culture, language and history.

The joint venture was composed of students within the Chinese Flagship Program, Honors College and the Asian Religions and Cultures major. Northwest University in Xi’an, China, hosted the group for their three-week trip. For many students, this was their first experience outside the United States.

“Of the 19, there was always a few of them where this was a new experience, and they had a lot of fun,” Paul Fischer, professor of philosophy and religion, said. “Everything is the same and everything is different. The difference I think, was exciting.”

Fischer attended the trip to teach topics in Asian religions and cultures, one of the two classes offered during the trip. The other was a language course instructed by Jianjun He, assistant professor of Chinese language in the Chinese Flagship program. 

Students spent their mornings learning aspects of Chinese culture and language  such as tai chi, painting and calligraphy, and would transition to the afternoon with visits to museums and temples.

The group biked around the medieval walls surrounding Xi’an and saw the ancient terra-cotta warriors. They were able to visit several Buddhist temples in Luoyang and walk part of the Great Wall of China in Beijing.

“It brings a couple more dimensions to your learning,” Fischer said.

There are hopes the trip will grow and become an annual Winter Term program. Students interested do not have to be a part of any of the three programs that attended. Fischer said the trip provides experience interacting with an unfamiliar culture, an important practice for any major.

“Whatever your major is, if it has anything to do with global work, even if you’re working in Brazil or Africa, there’s going to be the China factor of their political and economic influence,” he said. “Things like that are going to affect whatever you study.”

Students within the Flagship program were able to create contacts, gain familiarity and learn more of the language in the country they are studying.

Bailey Mack, a Louisville senior, said study abroad allows students to gain confidence through fluency in China’s culture and language.

“The Flagship program is very accelerated,” she said. “It seems to me that by giving students the ability to experience China early on in their language learning gives them the willingness to stick with the program.”