China Gateway Marks 5th Year of Study Abroad in 2015
The China Gateway Study Abroad Program marked its fifth successful year this May-mester. Mark Bender, Professor and Chair of DEALL, led a group of 17 eager, adventurous undergraduates on a month-long immersion experience in Sichuan province, southwest China. The program is based in the mega-city of Chengdu (world’s largest building, among other things) at the Southwest University for Nationalities (SWUN). The university has students from all of China’s 56 official ethnic groups, including Yi, Tibetan, Naxi, Miao/Hmong, and many others. The OSU students came from a wide variety of majors, and several are studying Chinese (including a few double-majors) in DEALL. The theme of the study abroad course was "Ethicity and the Environment in SW China."
Upon arrival the Buckeye students were paired up with cultural exchange partners, all of whom are undergrad English majors at SWUN and members of the Yi ethnic group. The main organizer on the SWUN side is Prof. Luo Qingchun (aka Aku Wuwu) who is dean of the Yi Studies College and an internationally known poet. Prof. Luo, who has visited OSU at least 4 times, organized a fantastic mix of classroom lectures and fieldtrips that ranged from the local sights around Chengdu to mountain villages in the Yi autonomous prefecture. Highlights of the fieldtrips were the Panda Research Center, the Three-Stars Ancient Bronze Mask archeological site, the ancient Dujiangyan Aqua-engineering project, and the sublime Lake Lugu in the foothills of the Himalayas, home to one of the world’s only matriarchal societies.
The OSU and SWUN students studied and traveled together for nearly three weeks, becoming “one big family.” They spent three special days at a huge middle school in the Yi minority regions in in what Prof. Luo calls the “1+1+1 program,” in which 1 SWUN student, 1 OSU student, and 1 middle school student exchanged culture and language. All the OSU students got a chance to experience teaching their own English class – which for many Buckeye students was the most meaningful part of the trip. (The scores in the basketball games played against the Yi middle school students won’t be mentioned here – just rest assured no one from OSU brought back any bragging rights! Wow – those kids were good!)
As usual, there was a big “cry-in” at the end of the program when everyone realized they wouldn’t be seeing each other in person again for maybe a very long time. But thank goodness for selfie-sticks (only 20 yuan each in Chengdu!) and the social media platforms WeChat and QQ which have allowed many of the participants to keep in touch. Leaving Chengdu, the OSU students spent two exciting nights exploring futuristic downtown Shanghai and a day visiting a traditional “canal town” (where Prof. Bender got momentarily lost and found). Plans are already afoot for next year’s program. Link to China Gateway Study Abroad: http://oia.osu.edu/getting-started/search-programs.html?sasid=79