"All the time on the trip is spent on things we can't do at home. That is critical. We spend all of our time in China focusing on China."

Not Your Average China Tour

Sure they climb the Great Wall, marvel at the Terracotta Warriors, and explore the Forbidden Palace. But where the tourist trip typically ended, the study abroad experience was just getting warmed up. Study abroad with Rick McGrath (economics) and Hongjie Wang (history) is not the average trip to China. Study abroad has real work involved, but in return students gain experiences that tourists just can't get.

The goals of the study abroad courses were to examine the history, culture, and economy of China. Conventionally enough, the experience began in the world-class business center of Shanghai. Just across the Huangpu River lies Shanghai's glitzy ultra modern alter ego and economic engine, Pudong. Not so characteristically, the tour ended on camelback along the ancient Silk Road between the Gobi and Takla Makan Deserts in northwest China.

In between, the students were treated to a kaleidoscope of experiences the average tourist seldom sees. Thanks to AASU's relationships with several Chinese universities and Dr. Wang's personal connections, study abroad students may take a lesson in tai chi, learn about traditional Chinese medicine, try their hand at calligraphy, tour a panda research station, or visit an English language class for Chinese children. Study abroad offers a lot more interaction with the Chinese people than would a tour.

Before departure, each student signs up for core and/or upper level courses and completes an assigned reading list for each class. This is an academic trip, and the preparation gives the student a much greater understanding and appreciation for the experience. McGrath explains, "All the time on the trip is spent on things we can't do at home. That is critical. We spend all of our time in China focusing on China."

The trip regularly includes students from many disciplines, although about half of the students are from economics. There is some flexibility to add courses in the student's major. While overseas, students attended lectures, keep an academic journal, and begin preparing for a post-trip research paper.

Students who go on the trip may use HOPE scholarship money for tuition, but not for travel expenses. Recent graduates and non-students may participate through a continuing education option.

The next China study abroad departs around May 5, 2010 and is expected to include study in Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, and along the Silk Road. For details, contact Dr. Richard McGrath at richard.mcgrath@armstrong.edu.