A group of 11 from Georgia Highlands College wound up a yearlong academic focus on China by taking the trip of a lifetime.
Five students, five faculty members and a member of the Rome business community spent nine days touring the major cities and visiting historical and cultural sites like the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden Palace, the Terracotta Army Museum and the Shanghai Tower as part of a Business and Culture study-abroad program May 25-June 2.
"The purpose of the China trip was for participants to gain a greater understanding of China's culture and business," said associate professor of history Bronson Long, who also is the director of global initiatives and study abroad. "This is important, as China today is a key nation on the world stage and a crucial trading partner for the United States."
Long, who had never been to China before, called the adventure "a fantastic trip."
"We visited the capital, Beijing, the city of Xi'an towards the center of the country and Shanghai, a major port city and the nation's business center," he said. "This gave us a good sense of China's government, history, culture and the business environment. It was a tremendous learning experience for everyone who participated."
The group also visited St. Michael Hospital in Shanghai, where Floyd Medical Center CEO/President Kurt Stuenkel, who was the group's business traveler, met with the CEO.
Assistant professor of business Dr. Denie Burks said she has "traveled to Asia and more specifically to China numerous times and always [finds] the love its citizens have for their country and its history very inspiring."
"The majority of people I have encountered display a strong sense of pride in the country’s advancement technologically, environmentally, culturally and, most importantly, where the building of strong business relationships are concerned," she said, noting the Chinese are a "creative and proud nation of people with strong work and business ethics." "I truly appreciate the pride its citizens have in their history and, within limits, are eager to share the history to give foreigners a better understanding of who they are as a people."
Burks, who teaches business management classes in GHC's Bachelor of Business Administration program, loves the Chinese buildings and transportation system.
"I also appreciate the impressive old structures and their desire to preserve them for future generations, [and] the strategic way in which their transportation system flows is astounding, especially with its vast population and how they magically make it seem effortless," she said.
Trying to choose one thing she enjoyed most about her trip wasn't possible for Burks, who recommends China as a "first international experience" for students who have never traveled outside the United States.
"That’s a tough question," she said. "I will start with the respect shown for the elderly; this has always been something that stood out to me. The intuitive way in which working relationships are built and the respect citizens show for its government. And, of course, all of the fascinating sites — the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, etc. The priority and pride the country and students place on education."
The trip was the culmination of the college's yearlong academic focus on China, according to Long.
“We decided to have a whole host of China-related events at GHC locations during the 2017-2018 academic year,” he said. “In essence, this made China our ‘theme country.’”
Activities for students during the year included creating a bamboo garden, watching the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company perform and learning how to cook Chinese cuisine with Chef Egg.
GHC also hosted a major academic conference in October that featured guests/attendees from across the University System of Georgia and the northwest Georgia business community as well as speakers on China from several prestigious institutions.
For the 2018-19 academic year, the college will conclude its yearlong academic focus with a study-abroad program to Panama next summer, Long said.
"Panama was chosen because of its Spanish-speaking culture and because of the Panama Canal," he said. "A great deal of trade from the Panama Canal now goes to the port of Savannah and even to inland ports here in northwest Georgia. This means that Panama has key ties to our state and our region's economy. As with our trip to China, traveling to Panama will be a good experience for our students and faculty."