one.five days with BRIC
As the high-speed train topping 300 Km per approached Beijing I was excited to see the 19 BRIC students and onsite coordinator Michelle McCormack. I had been attending a meeting in Shanghai and was grateful that I could spend a bit of time reconnecting with the group who had just returned from an overnight trip to the Great Wall of China.
The next day began with a speedy Chinese history lesson that provided an overview of 1000 years of Imperial dynasties in just over an hour, along with interpretation and juxtaposition against US perspectives. Jeremiah Jenne, a historian with IES Abroad shared many great insights given his 10 years of residence in Beijing. He skillfully led the group through a fascinating tour of the Urban Planning Museum, Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City, with historical commentary that was humorous, informative, and brought to life the nuances of today’s society in China. We had an opportunity to experience the watchful eye of the Communist Party as sensitive questions by our students needed to be handled with care and Jeremiah is clearly not a novice walking that fine line. The observers of the Communist Party were visible throughout the square. We were in awe of the historical import, and the size of these amazing structures.
The second day we spent a couple of hours at the Motorola headquarters where a veteran US expat provided us an insightful lecture on today’s China through a Public Relations lens; and the various ways that social media, online sales, and the slowing economy is impacting the relationship of the Chinese with foreigners living there.
Although my time and interactions with our BRIC students was rather limited, I observed so many encouraging and heartwarming signs about the many ways they are actively engaging with their environment by taking advantage of their surroundings and caring for one another. While trying to find services to attend for Yom Kippur in Beijing students were showing their skillful networking and a commitment to observing their religion. Other students were joining their peer in Islamic prayer as a sign of solidarity and wish to try something new – finding a mosque in Beijing was an adventure for them and they completed it with prayers. It was also clear to me that Michelle McCormack (Onsite Coordinator who accompanies them for the entire program) has earned their trust and respect and continues to provide them skillful guidance, education, and support. They shared their excitement and were so far thrilled with what they had learned in Russia and their brief time in China.
They were very inquisitive about all sorts of things while we explored Beijing in those short 1.5 days that I spent with them and that pleases me most, given that I know curiosity is the fuel that propels the development of intercultural competence. Unfortunately, my time with them was too brief, but I look forward to reading their reflections on this blog and reconnecting with them back at Babson in January.
September 27, 2012