Last June, I joined Dr. Di You and Professor Mary Ellen Wells from Alvernia’s Business Department as Visiting Scholars at Beifang University of the Nationalities in Yinchuan City, Xixia District in Ningzia Hui Autonomous Region in China. With the very capable Dr. You translating, we had the honor of teaching several undergraduate classes. We also spoke with key administrators from the university’s business department about developing a student exchange program with Alvernia.
One of the first things that struck us on our visit to the university was the diversity of its student body. Beifang’s mission is centered on becoming an inclusive environment (much like Alvernia), and the school proudly promotes that its students include members of over 50 different ethnic groups. In fact, there are monuments to celebrate each of the ethnic groups represented on campus.
This inclusive environment contributes to a wonderful atmosphere for students who are interested in an educational and cultural experience — including ours. Conversely, Beifang students we spoke with were very interested in study-abroad experiences including those that featured Alvernia.
We talked to a large number of students (some through our translator, Dr. You) who discussed the importance of having an international experience as part of their education. Many on campus are the first in their families to attend college and were strongly encouraged by parents to gain exposure to other cultures, making them ideal candidates for an exchange program with Alvernia.
Throughout our visit, we were exposed to a wide range of Chinese culture and history. We visited a number of significant historical sites and grew to appreciate a country with a history that spans millennia. We saw artifacts that were thousands of years old, learned of the extensive range of Chinese traditions and enjoyed foods of many of the groups in the region.
As a confirmed coffee drinker, I grew to appreciate the subtleties of the many fine varieties of tea (and learned that with great teas, the second and third steepings are the most flavorful!) Tea tasting in China is not unlike the American experience of tasting fine wine.
We also had the opportunity to spend a few days in Beijing, with a highlight of going to the Great Wall. Walking on the wall provided an indescribable experience. The vistas were amazing! Seeing the landscape with mile after mile of the wall is a vision I will never forget. Although I’ve seen many iconic landmarks worldwide, it has to be the most impressive sight I have ever experienced.
Until one visits China, it is difficult to appreciate the vast history, culture and lifestyle of the country. It is my hope that as many Alvernia students as possible have the opportunity to be exposed to this amazing experience.