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An expedition through China

05/07/2014

For eight students with an interest in the history and culture of China, a fast-paced, 10-day journey highlighted not only the differences, but the similarities between that country and our own.

According to Kelley Bryant '14, a business administration major from West Springfield, Mass., the opportunity provided a first-person view of one of the world's biggest business hubs as they visited the World Trade Organization, silk and jade factories, and other companies that offered a look at - as well as insight into - businesses which export to the United States.

Part of MCLA's "Business in China: Multi-National Corporations and Cultural Study Tour" course, economics professor Ben Kahn said the education and experiences gleaned through the trip teach students how to create their own jobs and plan for those that don't exist yet.

"One of the world's oldest civilizations, China has evolved into a 21st century global economic leader.  This course ensures that students are exposed to China's history and culture, while enabling them with knowledge and experience to perform in the global economy," Kahn said. 

The students not only obtained a view into China's economic system; they also experienced the country's culture. In addition to walking the Great Wall of China, they visited the Forbidden City, the Wild Goose Pagoda, Temple of Heaven, and the Terra Cotta Warriors. The group also saw three shows - which included performances in traditional dance and Kung Fu - and ate traditional food in many local villages in Beijing and Shanghai.

Bryant said, "For me, the Great Wall was the best cultural experience. Seeing the geography and the landscape of China was breathtaking. Some of the most fun days of the trip; however, were spent in Shanghai, a lively city that was wonderful to explore. By the time we were in Shanghai, our group felt like a family, which brightened the whole experience."

How did her travels change Bryant's perspective of the world, and of China?

"I really got to feel what an intense experience it is to be a foreigner in a country with a different language, which was a little scary," she said. "Conversely, I felt welcomed when I was thousands of miles from home, and that reminded me how kind humanity can be."

For Serwa Lake-Sample '14 of Albany, N.Y., the trip "was extremely eye-opening and made me more aware of the world around me. There is so much more out there to see, do and experience."

A biology major, Lake-Sample plans a career in the medical field. Going to China offered a look into its medical system - and at its environment.

"The air was often smoggy and cloudy because there is so much pollution," Lake-Sample said. "A lot of people seem to have respiratory problems, as well as trouble breathing because of the smog. Due to this, they wore facemasks so their lungs would not be infected by the pollution."

As a result, Lake-Sample is considering a return to China one day, to help with this problem.

Bryant also plans additional travel. Her participation in MCLA travel courses, she said, has inspired her to continue to study the world as she continues her education in graduate school.