From School Walls to Great Wall
From School Walls to the Great Wall
By Brent Wilhite
The grandeur of towering mountains combined with epic landscapes set the scene for the fall of dynasties, the rise of emperors, and a visit from a handful of
Armed guards at the airports scrutinizing every traveler, erratic and dangerous driving conditions, masses of tourists everywhere you look--
Assistant Professor of Management Steve Hurlbut and six
Camera shutters clicked everywhere the group went, but the Americans weren't the only ones taking the photographs. Blue-eyed, blonde-haired Amie Christensen ('02) had her picture taken with more than a few Chinese. "Being the only blonde around, everywhere I went, people wanted a picture with me."
Wherever the group traveled, everyone seemed excited to meet "the Americans." In the "small town" of Deyang (population 150,000), the students were billed as the second group of Westerners to ever visit the town. "From the moment we stepped off the train, there were video cameras on us," said Jared Erwin ('01). "The people were really excited just to meet Americans and get the feeling that we were friendly."
Smiling faces and helping hands greeted the group at every stop of their tour. "Everywhere we went, we were treated like royalty, eating the finest foods that only the rich enjoyed," Christensen said.
The menu consisted of some very interesting foods that would make many people squirm or lose their appetite altogether. The uneasiness wasn't caused by the rice, dumplings, and chicken soup, but it was the floating chicken head in the soup, or the pig ears, head, and chicken feet that left many wondering if they had the stomach to be treated like royalty.
The students spent two weeks at the Shanghai Teacher's College, where, every morning, they studied the Chinese language. "I picked up the language a little bit," Christensen said. " It's a tonal language, so it's kind of hard for Americans to speak, because one word could mean five different things depending on the tone of the word."
The American students weren't the only ones struggling with the language barrier. "All the Chinese students wanted to practice their English," said Dr. Hurlbut. "Almost every place we visited, the students were broken into small groups, and they would visit English classes."
The one-on-one interaction seemed to be an eye-opener for the students from both countries. "They would speak English to us, and we'd stammer out some Chinese," said Erwin. "They were shocked that we were learning Chinese. The students couldn't understand why the Americans would want to learn their language. They thought English was the only language you needed to learn, and if you knew that--you were set."
The dialogues between the students typically centered on the simple freedoms Americans enjoyed. "They wanted to hear all about what it was like to have brothers and sisters," said Erwin.
In 1979, the Chinese government introduced a "one-child" policy to control the population. "They seemed pretty jealous, and they really wanted bigger families," said Erwin. Traditionally, the family is very important to
The American students learned how very different college life in
The Chinese were very eager to learn all they could about the Americans. At two of the schools the group visited, Dr. Hurlbut offered his expertise to the faculty in the Chinese business schools. "I explained to them that if they were interested, I would be happy to give a presentation about experiential learning in
Within days of hearing of this opportunity, the university made accommodations for its entire business school faculty to attend the presentation. "It was really interesting for me. It was a chance for me to tell them something about American business education and for me to hear from them about the state of their business education."
But the group of students didn't travel halfway around the world just to visit other colleges. This was
Each of the sites the group visited seemed to mesmerize them with a mystical tale of its past, leaving visitors more curious than when they first stepped on what felt like hallowed ground. "
The group met for a history class while standing on a secluded, run-down section of the
As you can imagine, taking a Chinese history class while standing on the
The Great Wall was built on the highest points along the mountains, which offered the students miles of majestic views of mountain vistas.
"The Great Wall was amazing," said Erwin. "We were out in the middle of the mountains by a very small village and didn't run into a single other person while we were there. As we walked along the wall, I just thought how incredible it was that we could walk for miles along this structure that was built thousands of years ago."
Not only were the sites compelling, but there was a certain magnetism between the students and the Chinese people they met. "Up on the mountain, there were a lot of little kids waiting for us," continued Erwin. "I pulled out a piece of paper and gave it to one of the kids. He looked at it like it was the coolest thing in the world. It was like he had never seen paper before."
The friendly and open attitude of the Chinese followed the group everywhere they went. "The Chinese people are so much friendlier than people are here," said Christensen.
The Chinese people made a lasting impression on the
The trip to