A group of graduate students from the W&M School of Education trekked over 17,000 miles roundtrip during spring break this year to participate in a study abroad experience in the People's Republic of China. Students from our Higher Education and Counseling programs spent 12 days in China exploring teaching and learning at some of China's top universities, visiting Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai. Dr. Jim Barber, Assistant Professor in the Higher Education Program, led the course, EDUC 500: Global Studies – Teaching and Learning in China, for which students will receive three credits and a lifetime of memories. Students included Counseling doctoral student Richelle Joe, and master's students Alicia Frederickson and Katharine Sperandio as well as Higher Education doctoral students Sean Bates, Leslie Bohon, Debi Butler, Jess Hench, and master's student Meredith Allred.
Assisted by their knowledgeable local guide, Jian Hua Huang, the delegation visited five higher education institutions: Beijing Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University in Xi'an, East China Normal University in Shanghai, East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, and the private, for-profit EF "English First" Language Training Center. The W&M group was received warmly by faculty, administrators and students at the Chinese institutions, and had opportunities to meet with and interview current graduate students and faculty about their studies, research interests, and career goals. Dr. Barber commented, "The in-depth conversations with our Chinese colleagues in higher education and counseling were invaluable learning experiences. We've had the chance to investigate the teaching/learning environment in several institutions in China and compare that with our experiences from the U.S."
In addition to their studies, the School of Education group enjoyed some of China's most incredible cultural sites, including hiking the Great Wall of China, touring Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, viewing the Terra Cotta Warriors excavation in Xi'an, and ascending to the 100th floor observation deck of the Shanghai World Financial Center, China's tallest building. Higher Education Ph.D. student Leslie Bohon said of the trip, "We could ask questions of Chinese students and professors and have that face-to-face dialogue that allowed us to learn from each other. This kind of hands-on experience is different from reading something in a book. Being in the context is a much richer experience."
EDUC 500 students maintained reflective journals of their experiences after visiting each of the three cities. They will also complete multi-media web-based projects in which they make connections between teaching and learning in China and the United States based on their own research interests. Topics include international comparative education, addictions counseling, family dynamics with the one-child policy, teacher-student collaborations, and study abroad opportunities.
The SOE Study Abroad in China experience is one part of the larger College project, the WM-China Initiative for Film and New Media in Higher Education: Internationalization, Digital Learning, and Cross-Cultural Pedagogy, funded by the Reves Center for International Studies' Internationalization Fund. The initiative is a collaboration between the Modern Languages Chinese Program (Arts & Sciences), W&M Confucius Institute, and School of Education. You can learn more about the initiative and view student work in progress at http://chinese.blogs.wm.edu/. Campus forums to share insights on the initiative are scheduled for April 8 (Reves Center, Reves Room) and April 10 (School of Education 2060), from 11:30-12:30. For additional information, contact Jim Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.