October 19, 2010
Eric Pagan (left) and Charles Jicha (right)
In today’s increasingly globalized world, an in-depth knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture and language, political trends, economic policies and business practices have become an essential prerequisite for success in tomorrow’s global political economy. China and India alone account for over two billion people, or about one third of the world’s population. “Global citizenship without Asia is impossible,” said Ilan Alon, director of the Rollins College China Center.
The China Center’s long-standing mission is to establish Rollins College as a leader in global education. As a part of that mission, the Center has facilitated cross-cultural learning and teaching in or about China and launched a multitude of Chinese-focused initiatives at Rollins including curriculum, conferences, extensive research, and abroad experiences.
“No study of China would be complete without the opportunity to spend extensive amounts of time living there and immersing in its culture,” said Professor of International Business and Political Science Thomas D. Lairson, who is not only the architect of the annual Rollins in Shanghai program but also the driving force behind its constant expansion. The program is among Rollins’ signature international programs, providing students with an opportunity to learn both in and out of class about China’s diverse cultural and physical climate.
Now in its third year, the Rollins in Shanghai program was designed for Rollins students pursuing Asian Studies. The program, however, has also gained popularity with other students in many disciplines because it allows them to make optimum use of their time in the "Middle Kingdom" through special courses that include numerous field trips and excursions to places of historical and cultural interest.
The goal of the semester is to introduce students to all aspects of China and Chinese life from the urban centers to the rural countryside. This year, the program allowed 23 students to experience how the “open and reform” economic policies introduced 30 years ago have now fully entrenched China as a global economic superpower.
"Taking classes on China, discussing China with friends, reading about the nation, etc. are all important ways in which to educate oneself on the growing nation," said Ian Wallace (Class of 2012), one of the students in the 2010 program. "However, it is a completely different and more rewarding experience to be living the realities that you discussed in class, to see the development and growth that you have read about first hand, and to use the language everyday rather than for short spurts in 101."
Tom and Sally Lairson at the Yue Fei Memorial near Hongzhou.
Lairson, along with is his wife, Sally, accompanied the group of students who departed in late August. He teaches two courses in Shanghai—Chinese Business and Economic Development and US-China Relations—and accompanies students on all excursions and co-curricular experiences. Students are also studying Chinese Culture and History, multiple levels of Mandarin Chinese, Calligraphy, and Chinese Art.
Students experience the benefits of studying on the campus of host institution, Shanghai Jiao Yong University, with access to all campus facilities and activities, as well as the support of a full time program director and local staff. Founded in 1896, Shanghai Jiao Tong University is one of China’s premier institutions of higher education and research consistently ranking in the top four universities in China. It has six different campuses in the Shanghai area and over 30,000 total students. The Rollins in Shanghai program is hosted at the “main” campus in downtown Shanghai’s Xu Jia Hui district, a bustling vibrant area with easy access to public transportation, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and all that Shanghai has to offer.
“The Rollins in Shanghai program was one of the reasons I actually chose Rollins as my College," said Naomi Hatton (Class of 2013). "The experience in China has been absolutely amazing for me. I thought that it would just give me a little more life experience living in the culture and learning about it, but in actuality, the western perception of China is so distorted that I've realized China can really only be studied IN China.”
A pivotal aspect of the program’s allure and its effectiveness is the numerous co-curricular experiences that are woven into the four-month itinerary. “We have field experiences with foreign and Chinese businesses and in-class speakers. We visit significant historical sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City,” said Lairson. Students are also exposed to the arts, dance, and music of China through various visits to Shanghai’s cultural institutions.
Constant interaction with Chinese people and total immersion into Chinese life ensures that the program doesn’t happen in a bubble. “Students live in China for four months— perhaps you have to be here to understand, but the notion of a bubble in China is a fantasy,” said Lairson. “You cannot live in a bubble and ride the subway, eat on the street and go to the store. There are very few western people in China, so there are no bubbles.”
Students participate in various activities designed to increase direct interaction with Chinese students such as a recent dinner with Jiao Ting students followed by a bowling party. More of these events are planned for the rest of the semester.
Ciera Parks (Class of 2011) has found the cultural immersion both exciting and overwhelming. “I’ve gone from being a newcomer to the city to a fully-functioning citizen,” said Parks. “While a majority of the transition has been smooth, there have been rough patches: chopsticks, language barriers and the overall lack of personal space. Just the same, the challenges have made the trip all the more interesting.”
The Rollins in Shanghai program joins the extensive list of Rollins initiatives aimed at providing an unrivaled internationalized experience. Rollins’ unprecedented efforts to educate students for global citizenship and responsible leadership have received national accolades including recognition as a leading institution for the internationalization of its faculty in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Also of note, the China Center at Rollins College is engaged in teaching, research and outreach programs that have positively impacted Rollins’ internationalization efforts in China and beyond. Founded in 2005, the China Center was established by a group of faculty members from a variety of disciplines with an interest in promoting understanding of Chinese culture, economy, politics and history. Today, the China Center is part of a select network of university organizations that promote cross-cultural learning between China and the USA.
In October, Rollins hosted the Association of Colleges of the South’s (ACS) Third Undergraduate Research Conference on Chinese Studies. The ACS has been collaborating on China/Asia area studies for a number of years now. Rollins has taken a leadership role in this group, hosting two of their meeting, the first held in April 2010 and the second held October 15-16, 2010.
With its recent entry into the World Trade Organization and successful hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics and 2010 World Expo, China’s economic and political influence in the international community is certain to expand in the 21st century. Positioning Rollins students at the forefront of education into China’s emerging global position promises to give students a significant edge in their professional careers ahead.
The Rollins in Shanghai program is facilitated by EducAsian, a study abroad organization with 15 years of experience developing and implementing high-quality rigorous academic programs in China.