While many students headed to the beach for spring break, 18 students from Troy University flew to China to participate in a weeklong study abroad trip.
The trip was open to students from all majors and classifications and provided an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a foreign culture while taking classes for kung fu, tea preparation, paper cutting and painting.
“I think the aim of the trip for the entire group was to experience a new culture and really dive in head first,” said Kristen Hudman, a junior communication major from Birmingham.
Hudman said she enjoyed experiencing things firsthand rather than learning from a textbook. She said the group of Troy students became close friends with their Chinese student helpers, who showed them around and translated for them.
“I absolutely fell in love with the Chinese people there,” Hudman said. “They are the sweetest, funniest, most accepting people.
“It makes me want to learn more of the language. It makes an impression on somebody when you take the time to know their native language.”
The group visited the major cities of Shanghai, Chongqing and Beijing. The highlights of the trip were witnessing the nighttime skyline of Shanghai, observing the pandas in Chengdu and visiting the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square in Beijing, according to Austin Deal, an administrative support specialist at the Confucius Institute at Troy University.
“We went to the Great Wall of China, which was very cool,” Hudman said. “That’s something I never thought I would do in my life.
“I did not expect it to be like it was, but it was magnificent.”
Students participated in an academic exchange program at the Chongqing Normal University located in Chongqing, where they took Chinese classes and culture courses, experiencing life at Troy’s partner university.
“The students there were learning English, and they got to practice that with us while we practiced our Chinese with them,” said Gabrielle Byrd, a junior marketing major from Birmingham. “I had a vague idea of what the culture was like from asking my friends from China about how life was like for them, the foods they like and small things like that.
“Being there was a different experience in itself.”
Deal said the trip was a unique and essential experience for students to understand China’s culture and language because China is becoming a massive global superpower economically and politically.
“Aside from that, experiencing another culture in general, no matter what culture it is, allows us to understand the world better, makes us more compassionate and accepting,” Deal said.
For many students participating in the trip, it was their first time outside the United States.
“I had always wanted to go on a study abroad trip and had never been out of the country before,” Byrd said. “I grew alongside the people I went with and interacted with there and would highly recommend a trip abroad for everyone.”
Hannah Brennan, a sophomore accounting major from Mobile, said the Chongqing Normal University staff and students helped them learn beyond their expectations and become immersed in situations they thought they would be outsiders in.
“It makes me appreciate the international students in a new way because America is so very different than other places around the world,” Brennan said. “We may feel inconvenienced that our families are a couple hours away, but being across the globe is so different.
“I think our international students are very strong individuals.”