When 23 students (17 engineering, 6 invited from other colleges), two faculty members and Dean Belle Wei departed on this year’s two-week study tour of China and Taiwan as part of the college’s Global Technology Initiative, they knew a grand adventure awaited them. Their extraordinary journey took them to seven different cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Taipei, approximately 18 American and local companies, four universities and a number of prominent historical landmarks, including the Great Wall.
“Even though we’ve conducted these study tours since GTI was first established seven years ago, with a new group of students and faculty each summer, it’s always an exceptional experience,” says Dean Wei. “It’s exciting for me to see students experience firsthand the dynamism and energy of Shanghai and Hsinchu, Taiwan's Silicon Valley."
“One of the most memorable aspects of the trip was the opportunity to watch students increase their confidence in intercultural communication,” recounts Andrew Wood, professor of communication studies. “Whether they were conversing with our local hosts, haggling with souvenir-sellers, or chatting with folks who wanted to practice their English, SJSU students could see themselves as citizens of a world where communication and conviviality are the most important currency.”
Wood videotaped the corporate and university visits and spoke with six representatives of these organizations to determine their perceptions of Silicon Valley, and their vision of future relations with the United States. He is producing a documentary, which will be used to promote GTI efforts.
Richard Chung, professor of chemical and materials engineering and the 2011 GTI faculty coordinator, who also accompanied the students, says, “This year’s trip was a great success. For the first time, the students were able to share their adventures and experiences through a blog.
Also, many students gained a new perspective on cultural differences between the U.S. and China, and they began to think about how both cultures can learn from each other.”
Engineering student Miguel Rebollar, blogs, “I have to say that after reading magazines and watching shows on the history channel about the Great Wall of China, nothing compares to actually experiencing it live. Since I am a civil engineering major, I was just fascinated with the layout of the Wall and person power needed to complete this great engineering piece. … China’s infrastructure is an amazing work of engineering, their bridges, roads, and power lines are breathtaking even though they still face an overwhelming growing population to accommodate.”
Electrical engineering major Denice Calderon reports in one of her blog posts, “China has exceeded my expectations … When the newspapers call China a ‘developing’ country, it almost seems like an understatement once you actually experience Beijing. I don’t feel like I’m so far away from home, in fact, I feel like I am in a more improved one. … Overall, these past two days have enlightened me on true Chinese people versus what people think of China at home. It is truly amazing to see how the Chinese live.”
At the end of the trip, computer engineering major Alben Cheung blogs, “It was a once in a lifetime experience. … There was so much to learn in a short amount of time. I wish there was more time to learn about the culture, food and daily life of students as well as people in China.”
The $1 million Global Technology Initiative established in 2004, provides SJSU students with an opportunity to gain a global perspective of the world by learning about technology and business developments in the Asia Pacific region. GTI donors are high-tech business leaders with strong business ties in Silicon Valley and the Asia Pacific region.
Acknowledging the committed donors and sponsors who made this exceptional study tour possible, English major Karin McKie speaks for the entire group when she blogs, “Our diverse group would like to thank our kind sponsors for their boundless generosity in getting us halfway across the planet. This is a really cool thing they’ve done, and we’re excited to be global ambassadors on behalf of San Jose State University. It’s our privilege to serve in this capacity and bring our Silicon Valley guanxi (connections) to the ‘Middle Kingdom,’ one of the oldest cultures in the world.”