China Enriches UST Students' Study
Ten University of St. Thomas students traveled to Shanghai and Beijing as part of the study abroad trip to the People's Republic of China from June 11-24. Dr. Jon Taylor, chair of Department of Political Science, led the students and taught a course on comparative public administration.
While in Beijing and Shanghai, Taylor spoke with Party, government and university officials about the potential for future academic collaboration between UST and Chinese universities.
“I have been privileged as a scholar to make numerous trips to the People’s Republic of China," Taylor said. "However, this trip was different because I was able to share my experience, knowledge and appreciation of China’s politics and culture with our students. Leading our students around China is definitely more fun, frenetic and satisfying than sitting around with colleagues at an academic conference.”
Political Backstage Pass to Shanghai
While in Shanghai, the group experienced lively question-and-answer sessions with the faculty and students of Fudan University’s Institute for Advanced Study in Social Science and Tongji University’s School of Marxism. In addition to universities, the group visited various government ministries, cultural sites and museums in both Shanghai and Beijing.
Nancy Li of Easton Resources Development, Inc. in Houston, provided the students with unique access to the Memorial Hall of First National Congress of the Communist Party in Shanghai, as well as the Hongkou Jewish Ghetto, the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Xintiandi development area.
History, Lively Discussion in Beijing
In Beijing, the group experienced the history, culture and politics of imperial and modern China. They enjoyed visits to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Hall of the People, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the Great Wall. Also, the group took trips to KBR China and a Beijing hutong – a 500-year old neighborhood north of the Forbidden City.
The trip to Beijing was also marked by a spirited discussion about Chinese and American politics with the faculty and students of the School of Public Administration and Policy at Renmin University of China.
Study Abroad Defines Education
The students experienced China’s unique sights, sounds and food, and formed friendships with the Chinese people – particularly college students. Each student has returned to Houston with a better understanding of the complex history and politics of China, relations between Beijing and Washington, the role of the Communist Party in governing the world’s most populous nation and a strong desire to return to China as soon as possible.
Finishing up his Master in Liberal Arts in political science, David Williams celebrated the trip for the immersion into Chinese politics and history.
"As a grad student, the opportunity to travel to a country with thousands of years of history, the most dynamic economy in the world and a completely different ideology was one that I could not pass up," said Williams. "The experiences I took away from the historic sites, the unique neighborhoods, and the insight and questions of the professors and students we visited are things I will never forget."
Taylor said he believes students involved in UST’s study abroad experience, be it in China or elsewhere, are impacted in many ways.
"Traveling and studying abroad may be that defining moment in your education that changes your life," Taylor said. "Nothing will ever quite be the same after you have experienced study abroad. You’ll notice that your perspectives become a bit more global, your attitudes become a bit more international and you will have memories that will last a lifetime.”