A diverse group of 38 students, more than half of them first-generation college students, took the world by the horns in Beijing, China, during a Maymester program coordinated by DDCE Associate Vice President for Academic Diversity Initiatives Dr. Leonard Moore, DDCE Assistant Vice President for Academic Diversity Initiatives Dr. Ge Chen and International Office Program Coordinator Giancarlo Taylor.
Coming from many different majors and walks of life, the students quickly bonded around adventures exploring Beijing, volunteering at the Dandelion School for the children of migrant workers and their study of social entrepreneurship as a way to solve social problems. During their four weeks in Beijing, each Monday-Thursday, from 9 a.m. until noon, students attended a Social Entrepreneurship class taught by Moore on the campus of Beijing Foreign Studies University. Chen taught language and culture sessions those days, too, while Dr. Charles Lu, a postdoctoral fellow in the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence, helped students prepare for their sessions teaching students at the Dandelion School. Several guest lecturers spoke to students about Chinese History and social entrepreneurship and a panel of Beijing residents spoke to students about the one-child law.
Our students were fearless and engaged. All of them were ready to see and experience everything they could in Beijing, which included the following: Getting stuck in an elevator with no AC with 16 other people. Getting lost multiple times in China with an arsenal of only about 20 Chinese words. Going out to experience Beijing’s night life. Having heated debates in class over some of the most controversial issues around the world. Stopping every few minutes to takes pictures with locals who had never seen an African American before. Learning how to eat with chopsticks. Ordering from a menu only in Chinese. Supporting each other through home sickness. Laughing, crying, bonding with each other. Playing Killer. Going to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace. Bargaining at the Pearl and Silk markets. Eating donkey sandwiches and fried scorpion. Climbing the Great Wall. These are all things students said they would never forget.
A number of students took separate trips to Shanghai during the four weeks and two even traveled to Southern China to Yangshuo. All found the Chinese to be friendly and willing to help even though there were language barriers. The sessions every Friday at the Dandelion School were among the students’ most heartfelt experiences.
Junior Social Work major Kelly Perez summed up the entire Study Abroad experience, “I can’t believe all the things I did happened in one month. I don’t know what to tell people about China. There is just too much to tell. And I’m afraid my words and even pictures don’t do my experience in China justice.”