•    Summer 2011 Class China Trip Itinerary

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•    Experience from some of the students who took the course in the summer 2011

Sierra Bender <SEB5414@PSU.EDU>, Engineering

Before going to China, I knew that I would come out with tons of amazing experiences, but I had no idea what to really expect. Even though I had the day by day itinerary, there was always something that surprised me along the way. I did not want to go into it with the expectation that it would change me, but in the back of my mind I knew it might.

In the beginning, I had it in my head that that was the only time I would ever be in China, but now I can’t imagine not going back. Being there filled me with so much contentment. I’m not sure what it was, but something about strolling around Shanghai in the evening made me feel so relaxed. Not only did it make me want to see more of China, but it made me want to travel the world. Seeing the differences in American culture and Chinese culture made me realize how much I am missing out on by not travelling. After hearing so much of the language, all I wanted was to be able to speak it and understand it. When learning a few words, it occurred to me how much I miss speaking Spanish as well. I’m not sure if I want to double major, but I am definitely inspired brush up on my Spanish as well as become trilingual with Chinese.

For the most part I really enjoyed the food. I absolutely fell in love with juicy dumplings. Going into the trip I promised myself that I would be open to trying new things. I have always been a picky eater so this was a big step for me but I am so glad that I followed through. Though I wanted to be open, I had no intention of trying bull penis but I ended up trying it anyway! I just figured, when would I ever have another chance to try it? The Chongqing hot pot was probably the most culture shocking meal. I sat with James, John, Carl, and Candice. We were all very unsure about the raw meat that was sitting on our table, staring us in the face. Candice freaked out the most which made us even more concerned. After a lot of dilly dallying the waitresses noticed our lack of interest and started dumping the food into the hot pot with a smile. We all knew we had to eat something but with so many unidentifiable meats, we just did not know where to start. We ended up taking everything as a team. We all fished out the same meat and on the count of three put it in our mouths. It turned a nearly horrifying experience into a fun one and it was a good bonding experience.

After returning home I have gained an appreciation for real Chinese food. I am almost afraid to eat American Chinese food again because I know it is just not the same. I have been able to keep the memory of the delicious flavors alive because I bought my mom some spices from the Muslim snack street. She has used them in every dish she has made since I got back and I couldn’t be happier. We have even been searching for recipes for the juicy dumplings. I am trying to keep the taste of China with me for as long as I can.

Our visits to the different companies stimulated my aspirations. Listening to the engineers-turned-businessmen reinforced my plans for my career path. Ultimately I hope to be in a position much like them. Working in China had never really occurred to me until this trip. I’m still not sure I could do it but I would absolutely give it a chance.

I cannot say that this trip changed my personality; I feel that it simply helped me to think clearer. It left me with the urge for more adventure and excitement in my life. I have always dreamt of having a very successful career but seeing the possibilities brought it to life. This trip could not have been more fulfilling. There have been so many nights since we got back where I dreamed of being in China again and then waking up in my own bed disappointed. I cannot wait for my next chance to go back to China and maybe by then I will be speaking Mandarin.

Nick Cafaro, nsc5067@psu.edu


The Best Three Weeks of My Life

             Experiencing a new country for the first time may be challenging, but experiencing China for the first time was only ever exciting.  Touring ancient palaces, gorging on delectable foods, conversing with the locals, and floating on the Yangtze gave an overall outstanding view of China. 

            Roaming through places like the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace gave me the feeling of an emperor.  Gorgeous buildings, pathways, and walls surrounded us as we walked through such places.  Artistic designs with bright colors and unique paintings are on every pillar and wall.  Experiencing ancient buildings that were constructed thousands of years ago was breathe-taking, to say the least.  Imagining the excruciatingly hard labor and innovation that brought these ancient cities together is nearly impossible.  Touring through these ancient Chinese palaces and structures, like the Great Wall, was certainly one of the most exciting factors of the trip.

            Although the ancient aspect was overly enjoyable, it was the food that goes as number one for me.  Eating large, relatively healthy, and delicious meals almost every day was amazing.  I could barely eat American style food when I got home after indulging on so many scrumptious treats in China.  I found myself constantly opening up to new foods, especially ones that I didn’t know the name to.  Although some meals were found uneatable by most of the class it was always worth it to try and enjoy some of the new styles.  I think even the “not-so-good” meals were worth it because they gave students a chance to experience a large portion of the differences in our cultures’. 

            The best chance to experience cultural differences between American and Chinese people was by attempting to hold a conversation with each other.  Unfortunately most of the students, as well as me, were illiterate when it came to speaking Mandarin, but thankfully many Chinese people had taken the time to learn basic English.  Conversing with these well-educated locals and students gave new insight to the lives of Chinese people.  Without a doubt speaking with locals was always enjoyable and always gave a different view of the country as a whole.

            Even relaxing on a river for a few days was another exciting adventure.  With various ancient cities and temples to stop at I enjoyed every minute of it.  Experiencing more ancient like the Shibaozhai Pagoda and Fengdu was outstanding.  On the river, we were also given the chance to learn more about the Three Gorges Dam Project and how it affected those residing in the Yangtze River area.  With new sights to see everyday nothing ever got washed away. 

            After gaining new friends, possibilities, and insight on the world I can easily say I enjoyed every moment of our trip.  I look forward to continuing the friendships that have been built on this trip and hope that the opportunity to go back arises one day in my life. 

Stephen Dillon <smd5420@psu.edu>


            Being nearly three weeks removed from the trip may not be the best time to capture my immediate reactions and feelings that resulted from this China trip, but I will do my best to recall my most crucial thoughts and impressions.

            -Upon touching down in the Beijing airport, I had no idea what to expect. The turbulence that my plane experienced as we were descending through the smog and air pollution (which are very bad) rattled most of the thoughts I had out. Stepping into the airport terminal was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. The place is massive, so big that even though I could see a crush of people waiting at customs up ahead, I couldn’t hear a single thing that was being said. It was a little bit eerie because I have flown through a lot of airports in the United States and I haven’t experienced anything like that.

            -Stepping out into the China air was something that I was actually dreading while we were waiting in the airport for the rest of the class to assemble. I had been told by my dad that the air in India was so bad that it was a physical challenge to breath normally for the first day. I was nervous that is what the air in China would have been like. It wasn’t. For the most part, I didn’t even recognize the air pollution at all unless I was looking out at the skyline (where it was blatantly obvious) or until I got congested from what I’m guessing were air impurities.

             -Beijing is better than Shanghai. This is strictly personal opinion, but I liked the feeling and layout of Beijing more than Shanghai. Even though the Shanghai dumplings were terrific…

            - While it seemed that most people on the trip weren’t very thrilled with Chongqing, I think that if they were to visit it again in 10 years and with better weather conditions, they would like it much more. As a rapidly developing city, Chongqing definitely doesn’t sport the prettiest face in China, and coupling it with rain certainly didn’t help. The tour guide was extremely disappointing as well (Paul…).

            -Sleeper trains are incredible. Because of this trip, I am willing to actively seek out railroad alternatives to flying and driving places. I actually just rode the train down from Albany, New York back home to Trenton, New Jersey, partially due to my experienced with the trains in China. People have forgotten about trains in America and don’t realize what they’re missing.

            -The Terracotta Soldiers, Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square were all appropriately amazing. I honestly thought that more of the Terracotta Warriors had been excavated at this point in time, but I guess when you’ve seen one molded soldier statue made of clay you’ve technically seen them all.

            -The river cruise was outstanding and the Three Gorges Dam was unbelievable. It was incredible to look out over that engineering marvel and then think of about the lives and the costs that were required to construct it.

            -The intersections in the Chinese cities are huge. It’s almost as if they designed them to handle an absurd amount of traffic…go figure…

            -Dalian has some massive shrimp.

            -The people who work at the Olympic Stadium take their jobs way too seriously.

            -The interviews and tours were informative and interesting, but in the future I think that some visits to construction sites and construction firms would be great for those choosing to major in Civil Engineering.

            -This trip was a great opportunity to practice my Chinese that I learned in high school and has gotten me excited about taking CHNS 003 in the fall.

            While this trip was a great chance to see that Chinese sights and learn about applications of Engineering abroad, I also got to meet plenty of interesting people and made some definite friends and lasting relationships.


ANDREW J DUNNING ajd306@psu.edu

            After a six layover in Toronto and a 13 stuck in an uncomfortable airplane chair I was so excited to land in Beijing.  I remember walking into the airport I had no Idea what to expect and once we were inside the terminal it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.  It was official, I was in china and these were going to be three weeks I would never forget.  I think that first day was the most exciting, I mean I had been to other countries before but everything here seemed different here, the roads were different, the way people just walked down the highways the bikes everywhere, the way people carried themselves, something was just different.  Dinner that first night was horrible, a hot pot, and I remember fearing that all the food was going to be like that, and I thought I was going to starve. And it was at the hotel that night when I made the first realization that I was not going to be able to communicate for the next three weeks it had been a day, and I was wondering if I was going to survive another twenty.  So Beijing was our first city and it was beautiful, the structures there were all so unique not like we’d see in shanghai but still it was definitely not like any American city I had ever seen.  So throughout all the cities we had tour guides and it’s interesting that I had thought in each city their English had gotten progressively better, it wasn’t till my last few days navigating the subways in shanghai that I realized I had just gotten really good at under sting their Chinese accent. (funny to note that back in the states I work at McDonalds, and a Chinese lady came in and no one could understand her, there were 4 employees trying to figure out what she wanted. it was kind of attracting everyone’s attention I felt really bad, because I had been in the same situation in china, so I came up from the office and I didn’t have a problem understanding her haha) I learned so much on this trip, especially about people just talking with business owners, and by watching and listening to shop owners I began to notice how alike we are, even though we look different t and speak a different language, we are all human some of us are kind, some rude, angry, helpful, sad, happy. We all share basic human characteristics.

            As far as the engineering feats in china, there are no words to describe them.  Starting with the ancient buildings like the Forbidden City and great wall, I don’t even know how someone could imagine such a vast project. I’m so glad I had a chance to see them I mean pictures are great but they are nothing compared to first hand experience. The Forbidden City was so huge, and the architecture and colors there were magnificent. The great wall was by far my favorite part of the trip; I can’t imagine something like that being built today, let alone hundreds of years ago. It was huge and went on forever and it was equipped with steps, towers, and gun posts it was truly indescribably.  Then the modern feats the modern design of the birds nest was so cool I can’t imagine the physics that went into designing it.  Another really fun day was when we took a visit to Ford and Dow not only did I learn a ton about engineering and business in china, but I was so impressed by the state of the arc buildings.  I hope that after graduation when I find a job, I hope the building has a gym and a doctor’s office built in, it makes sense, and it’s so convenient.

            The shopping streets we went to were AWESOME we had the opportunity to interact with business owners.  They had a lot of stuff and some of them were so much fun to talk with, although some of the shopping warehouses we explored in shanghai were a little overwhelming. Also visiting the schools was a very good idea I not only learned how much pressure they have on them to do well but I also made friends, and met a new pen pal who’s awesome, and fun to talk to.

            This trip was so much fun, and though I ate some food I could have gone a life without, almost saw someone get knifed, and maybe even got ripped off a few times, there is so much to reflect upon and two pages just isn’t enough space, but It was a once in a life time opportunity that I will never forget, Xinli you’re a great professor and a fun guy thank you for the best three weeks of my life. Thank you!



James Mccullen, Email: jkm5185@psu.edu

 I travelled to China, taking part in ENGR 197A Engineering Design and World Cultures. I had an unbelievable experience. It is one thing to read and listen to lectures about a foreign culture, and a whole other thing to experience the art, music, literature, food, and way of life first hand. The course is nothing less than spectacular.


As a future United States Naval Officer, this course brings a new level of understanding in my abilities to lead and represent this fine country of ours. China is a growing world super power; a country that can compete step for step with ours in every way imaginable. I hope one day to be able to take part in allowing the relationship between the U.S. and China to prosper. After my experience I have learned that the Chinese are not much different from us Americans.


The opportunity to be an ambassador and travel halfway around the world to represent not only The Pennsylvania State University, but The U.S. as well is an experience that I will never forget. I believe this course is an advantage for my future studies and career. I would highly encourage any student to take this course because nothing but good things can come from it.


John Sheehe, jds5441@psu.edu

When I heard about this class from Xinli, I thought it seemed like a pretty good deal; to get 3 college credits to go on a trip to China. I thought it would be a good experience. It turned out to be a great experience. The places we visited and the things I learned were enough to make the trip worth it. But on top of this, Xinli gave us a little something extra. Through his connections in Dalian, Huangshan, and several other cities we went to, we had some great experiences with amazing food and getting to talk to some friendly Chinese citizens. We were able to see a CEO’s office, stay in 4 star hotels, and get the best tour guides and bus drivers. Xinli made this trip “the trip of a lifetime.” At the end of the trip, when talking with other students, all they could talk about was how amazing their experience was, mostly due to the fact that Xinli showed us such a good time.

Another aspect of the trip that made it so much fun was the group of people that went. We had a great group who really got along and had a lot of fun with each other. During the day, we had fun enjoying the sights together and taking pictures for each other. Each night at dinner, we had some great talks and learned a lot about each other.

I made several good friends that I know I will continue to keep in touch with and hang out with back in State College.

            The sights that we saw in China were incredible. In Beijing, I really enjoyed seeing the Great Wall and the Olympic City. These were two of the things that I had heard the most about before visiting China so it was great to see them in person. In Dalian, I really enjoyed the food and experience we got because of Xinli’s friends. In Chongqing, we had fun checking out the two museums and learned about the Yangtzee river and the Three Gorges Dam Project. I particularly enjoyed the river cruise from Chongqing to Yichang. I had never been on a cruise before. It was very relaxing to hang out on the ship and observe the breathtaking gorges. Shanghai was my favorite city. To me, it was the cleanest and most beautiful city. We had a little more free time and I got to do some shopping. The Chinese Pavilion and the Bund were two of my favorite sites in Shanghai. In Huangshan, it was good to get a look at family life through observing Xinli’s interactions with his family and getting to check out his brother’s house.

            Overall, I got the total experience in China. I got a great taste of all aspects of their culture and got a good look at their daily life. I learned a lot about their history and saw many great sites. Because I had such a great experience, I want to go back some day to check out some of other many places we didn’t have time to visit.

Shanna Silverman <srs5470@psu.edu>


 The overall experience of visiting abroad was priceless.  China was a life changing experience for me, I find myself constantly looking back and recalling moments of the trip with a huge smile on my face. I remember the first day arriving to china leaving America without any knowledge or expectations on the Chinese lifestyle. I was overwhelmed from the flights and already the first dinner had me completely shocked, the dinner was a hot pot where we served ourselves pig kidney, drinks with dead snakes in it, unfamiliar fishes, and unidentifiable meats. I never expected such a meal to be eaten in any culture, and this is the first real Chinese experience I had, which had me worried about what was to come. The trip ended up being better than I could have ever asked for. I got to visit famous locations I would have never dreamt of seeing like the Tiananmen Square, many museums, palaces, the great wall, and see the terracotta warriors to name a couple highlights of the trip. There was so much about this trip this is just indescribable to anyone who didn’t attend. Sharing this trip with other engineering students for me made it even more interesting since I got to share it with people who have similar mind sets and engineering ideas when we came upon something new. For example, viewing the lock system with other engineering students and taking about its process made the experience of being on the cruise worthwhile; those moments confirmed my passion for engineering. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing me and my colleges excited when we visited engineering companies because understanding and submerging ourselves in the real world of our future is preparing us to be the best at what we are majoring in. We can compare our American engineering systems to those of other countries and submerge the idea together to produce better products more efficiently in the future.

Sharing my trip with not only engineering students Chinese speaking students made the trip much more convenient and easy flowing, there also was a good male vs. female ratio, and teacher vs. student ratio. The group chosen for the trip played the largest role in the memories I will cherish from china and I thank everyone for all their fun and effort for making this trip so incredible.

 One of my favorite things I learned about China is that people with American decent are the beautiful race which makes us kind of popular in a sense where people took a lot of photos with us and were shy to talk to us. I really enjoyed visiting CUMT as well as the high schools since it made me feel famous and important to share my knowledge with the students.  I would say my least favorite part about that is the weird men trying to hit on the girls where ever we walked alone.  Out of all the cities I feel Shanghi was my favorite since it was full of many tall buildings, a lot of night life, kind people, and great food. On that note I felt that chong qing was my least favorite food for its spicy food and least welcoming people. I had a wonderful experience and Dr. Xinli Wu and staff for all your effort and making the trip so worthwhile and teaching me to try food and being open minded about life.



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