2010 Outstanding Students Summer Tour

Author: Daniel Charvat

This past June/July vacation saw select students from both Chinese Studies 1 and 2 going participating in the second Rhodes University China Summer Tour for Outstanding Students. Following the success of last year’s trip, the CIRU was afforded the opportunity to send 25 students to China, courtesy of the Chinese government, for a 19 day tour and intensive study course. A large incentive for students to excel in the course, the tour is an incredible (and for many a once in a lifetime) opportunity for students to expand their knowledge of China and Chinese culture though first-hand experience.

The group arrived in Beijing and parted ways as the first year group, chaperoned by Daniel Malamis of the Classical Civilisations department, followed a similar path travelled by last year’s group of students. The five second year students met up with Prof. Ma Yue and together travelled down the East side of China instead, with the Southern province of Guangdong as the final destination.

The first year students, with one semester of Chinese under their belts, explored the cities of Beijing and Xi’an before arriving at Jinan University in Guangzhou. Among the favourite attractions were the Great Wall of China, where students ascended its steep stair cases and viewed the surrounding landscape from the battlements atop the guard houses, and the Temple of Heaven. In addition they walked through the gargantuan grounds of the ancient Forbidden City, adjacent to Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the people in the heart of China’s 28-million people strong capital city. In Xi’an one of the most memorable attractions was undoubtedly the ancient burial grounds of the Terracotta Warriors –over 8000 thousand soldiers buried to protect the Emperor in the afterlife when he died over 2000 years ago. These are but a few of the many ancient and modern (Olympic Park) heritage sites students were able to experience.

The second year group, visited an exhaustive yet unforgettable 12 cities before arriving in Guangzhou. Among these were: Jinan (birthplace of Confucius himself, and not to be mistaken with the University), Tai’an (home to Taishan mountain), Hangzhou (voted China’s most liveable city) and Suzhou (the silk capital of China). Hangzhou stood true to its reputation and students enjoyed serene water tours of the famous West Lake and walked though the lush and beautiful gardens of Hangzhou. They also spent two days in Shanghai, which was particularly special since during their stay the Shanghai World Expo was in full swing. With approx 400 000 people visiting the expo on a daily basis, they were overwhelmed by the sheer size of everything. At four or five times the size of Rhodes University, the group walked for hours through the huge pavilions representing the participating countries, each entirely unique in its own right. Shanghai, aside from the expo was an incredibly cosmopolitan city, with architecture influenced by European colonies mixed with traditional Chinese architecture and modern structures.

The two groups met up in Guangzhou at Jinan University’s language and culture campus, Huawen Xueyuan. The first year group then embarked on an intensive language and Chinese cultures course in which they learnt traditional cultural arts such as martial arts, cooking, calligraphy and paper-cutting as well as language studies. The second year group participated in what classes they had not already taken last year, and spent the rest of their time in intensive language classes as well as gaining first-hand experience navigating and exploring China’s economic powerhouse, experiencing various cultural practices along the way – the traditional Chinese massage still sees students harbouring mixed feelings and was both terrifying and painful and culturally unique, an “experience” nonetheless.

At a welcome party held in our honour by students of Huawen Xueyuan, and in thanks for the experience afforded to us, our students performed a small show composing traditional South African songs and performances learnt during our stay at in China.

Once again, the trip was an incredible success, and students gained insight into the cultural workings of China, saw some of the world’s most famous historical sites and improved their language ability substantially. The exposure to “raw” Chinese life encourages students to really throw themselves into the culture and overcome the fear of the language barrier, contributing invaluably to the students’ language ability. A huge thanks goes out to the Hanban, Jinan University, the CIRU, Daniel and Tess Malamis, and every other individual who was in some way responsible for making such a memorable trip possible.

Last Modified: Thu, 27 Sep 2012 12:17:54 SAST