Webster Geneva IR Students Recall Study Trip to China

| May 17, 2011
A bit of walking helped Webster Geneva students feel the Great Wall's immense size.

A bit of walking helped Webster Geneva students feel the Great Wall’s immense size.

Earlier this month a group of students from Webster’s Geneva campus visited China, including the Great Wall. The trip was led by Alexandre Vautravers, head of Geneva’s International Relations program.

The following are excerpts of trip reports from Vautravers and two of the Webster Geneva International Relations students.

Graduate Jana Nester describes landing — and learning the language :

“The motley crew of Webster University-Geneva safely arrived in Beijing to commence an intensive two-week study of Chinese language, culture, history and politics. Upon arrival, jet-lagged but enthusiastic, the students were given a campus tour by Dr. AlexandreVautravers, Dr. Rickli and local program assistants Chen Li and Hu Zenzi. After orientation, the group gathered at a local restaurant to share first impressions while discovering local Chinese cuisine. The following morning, Chen Li taught us the first of two “survival” Chinese lessons. Students and professors alike struggled to replicate the difficult tones of the Chinese language. Thanks to Chen Li’s skillful teaching, students were able to count well, order food and even bargain in Mandarin by the second class.

“Following language orientation, Dr. Vautravers led an informative excursion to downtown Beijing: past the Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square and through the modern shopping district Wanfugin. Chinese history and the functionality of Communism were amongst the topics discussed along the way.

“The next lecture of the trip was given by Professor Zhang Wei, of the Beijing Language and Culture University. Professor Zhang outlined the main principles and modern implications of ancient military general and strategist Sun Tzu.”

Vautravers describes a visit to the Military Museum:

“The aim of this one-hour visit was to discuss the evolution of the Chinese security policy, and its main focus at maintaining the national integrity. Discussions centered around the role played by China in the Korean and Vietnam wars – in particular through the handover of eighty T-34/85 tanks that allowed the Democratic Republic of North Korea to invade it’s Southern neighbor in the wake of the US conventional disarmament and its reliance on strategic/nuclear deterrence alone. The exhibition also showed a Chinese Mig-15, in Korean markings, during the fighting over the Yalu river.

“Our students also witnessed a story not recorded in the history books: A CIA-operated U-2 spyplane, repainted with Taiwanese markings, shot down over China and displayed at the military museum.

“Finally, it was possible to discuss China’s arms industry, and the rise the People’s Republic’s military budget. The later, rising typically 10-20 percent from year to year, worries many observers. But with an annual growth in the same range, such a budget “increase” becomes very relative. And the development of modern technologies, higher costs and wages, also means substantial reductions in numbers of weapon-systems.”

Thomas Reis Faria describes their trip to the Great Wall:

“As a part of understanding Chinese Culture and mentality, a trip to the Great Wall could not have been missed. It was a nice day but deceiving weather: Although it was sunny in Beijing, the Wall was in high altitudes with very cold winds, consequently giving good business to the merchants selling high-priced jumpers at the entrance.

“I have to say I was amazed by the size of the Great Wall. I could not imagine that it was that long, and neither could my feet. And as Professor Rickli accompanied us through the steep and uneven wall, I believe most of the students and I expected less of a challenge.

[…]

“To me, the grandiosity of the structure reflected clearly on the millenary Chinese isolationism. We observed that the majority of the tourists seemed to be Chinese — well over 70 percent, I’d say. As important to them to see the biggest monument in their country, they also seemed quite impressed with us, stopping us for photos and even handing their child to take a photo with one of us.

“It was certainly unforgettable.”

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Category: International & U.S. Campuses

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