Beef noodles, Buddhist temples, busy streets, and boats on the Yellow River. Sixteen students experienced all of these things on the UWT summer study abroad in China last summer, led by UWT’s Dr. Mary Hanneman and Tacoma Community College’s Dr. Yi Li. For the past eight years, UWT students have had the opportunity to gain (or hone) Mandarin skills while studying Chinese history and culture in China. The 2014 program took students to the city of Lanzhou, in China’s northwestern region, for three weeks of language study at Lanzhou University and one week of travel to Dunhuang, a site on the ancient Silk Road, finishing up with three days in China’s vibrant capital of Beijing.
Studying abroad with a group of fellow students means there’s always someone to talk into a new adventure, whether it’s making your way across a street with eight lanes of frantic traffic, riding a camel in the Gobi Desert, or unfurling the Seahawks “12” sign for a quick photograph in Tiananmen Square. And there is always someone to process those experiences with, whether it is in class discussion (or on the bus discussion, or walking down the street discussion) with your fellow students or with the study abroad professors.
Michael Holloway, PPPA senior who participated in the program reflected that the direct experience of China changed his understanding: “My perception of China and its foreign and economic policies was transformed in my mind from out of control, economic super power into a nation rattled with deep social wounds that, under great leadership, strategically transformed itself economically to be a world forerunner in the coming century.”
A highlight of the trip for most students was the almost magical caves of Dunhuang. These ancient caves are the site of marvelously preserved Buddhist paintings and statuary from the 4th -9th centuries. Abandoned and forgotten for many hundreds of years, they were “discovered” in the late 19th century by European adventurers. The Chinese government now strictly controls access to these delicate caves, whose dry temperatures and darkened lighting conditions have resulted in the miraculous preservation of un-retouched artworks from over a thousand years ago. As Michael Holloway noted, these sorts of sights resulted in “moments of silence by our group [that] reflected a lack of words for the beauty and history. We had front row seats to sights, historic places, and ancient artifacts.”
PPPA students who participated in the study abroad included Brynn Brooks, Jake Josephson, Khulan (“Harley”) Ganzorig and Michael Holloway. As Harley Ganzorig wrote, “Education, passion, and compassion are an international language, and through them I have communicated with the others in so many different ways, [making this experience] one of the most precious moments of my university years.”