Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112
When Wittenberg’s premier East Asian Studies program received the $1.9 million grant from the Freeman Foundation in 2002, the program pledged that all students, regardless of their course of study, would have an encounter with Asia as part of their undergraduate experience. And encounter it they have.
From enjoying Asian performing arts in the Wittenberg Series to learning from visiting teaching fellows to specialized study, students have consistently taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Freeman Foundation. In the first two years of the four-year grant, more than 120 students have also traveled to East Asia as have 40 members of the faculty and staff, including Webmaster Robert Rafferty ’02.
Travel with Rafferty as he catches up with six students studying in Beijing and Shanghai this summer, and discover what a difference one gift can make.
ERIN WELLER AND KATIE HOUCHENS
“This is where we want to go,” Erin Weller ’05 said to a Shanghai cab driver as she passed her well warn tablet over the front seat. The driver looked at the Chinese characters that had been scrawled by her tutor and then began to reply in his native tongue.
“We don’t understand what you are saying,” interrupted Erin’s roommate Katie Houchens ’05 who then attempted to pronounce the Chinese characters. After a moment or two, the driver gave the universal thumbs up signal to the women, and they were off to dinner.
“This is how it goes every time we get in a cab,” Erin confessed. Giving directions to a cab driver in any major American city can be difficult. Imagine trying to explain how to get back to the Bronx from mid-town Manhattan. Now imagine doing that in a language you have only studied for two weeks.
“It was the best opportunity I have ever been given,” Katie said. “Before coming to Wittenberg, if anyone had told me that I would be living in an apartment in Shanghai for the summer, I would probably have laughed at them.”
But Katie and Erin aren’t laughing now. “This was the only way I would have wanted to spend the summer,” Erin said. “We both are so fortunate to have had this experience.”
While some students go abroad find their own independence, Katie and Erin have found the opportunity to travel abroad together not only once but twice.
Their summer in Shanghai was the second opportunity that the friends had to study outside the United States. In the fall of 2003, Erin and Katie spent a semester in London, England, during which they traveled throughout Europe to Italy, Spain, Ireland and Scotland.
This summer they not only had their passport stamped in China but also Thailand. Growing up on opposite sides of the country, Katie in Colorado and Erin in Connecticut, the friends and fellow field hockey players first met when Ken Benne, dean of admission introduced them.
They then joined Delta Gamma sorority in 2002. As their academic pursuits unfolded, they both declared majors in English and minors in East Asian Studies.
Their paths to East Asian Studies, however, diverged. Erin grew up in a family where Fridays were devoted to Chinese food. “It’s something that we always did and something I enjoyed,” she said.
Additionally, Erin’s parents traveled to China on occasion for business and would return with what seemed like amazing gifts from another world. Katie’s appreciation for East Asia developed at Wittenberg.
“The East Asian Studies department is so strong at Wittenberg that it is hard not take a class. The opportunities offered by the Freeman Foundation are incredible for Wittenberg students.”
Their seven-week program in Shanghai introduced them to courses in both written and spoken Chinese, while a cultural Chinese course taught them about the history of Shanghai.
Each day, Katie and Erin started to become more comfortable with their Chinese language skills. Their personal tutors guided them through daily exercises, and as the weeks passed, they also began to approach daily interactions with confidence.
“Shanghai is often chaotic,” Erin said. “Some days it can take you 20 minutes to get somewhere, and the next day it may take three hours.” But that is the reality of China’s most populous city.
With more than 13 million residents, Shanghai is one of the world’s largest cities.“All of the activity makes the city exciting,” Katie said.
“You have to be careful that you know where you are going or you might end up somewhere completely different, but that is part of the fun.”
Traveling the streets of Beijing with Ross Kaplan ’06 is a lot like reading the Sunday edition of the New York Times — you know you are getting the facts, but you can’t help yourself from wanting to flip to page 16 to get the rest of the story before you have even finished the first paragraph.
A Russian Area Studies major with an innate talent for foreign languages and an intense interest in the world beyond his fingertips, Ross speaks advanced Russian and, although he says he has a long way to go, is also quite well spoken in Chinese.
With only two semesters of formal Chinese under his belt, he can converse easily with taxi drivers, barter with local street vendors, read restaurant menus and give directions to anyone who might need them.
Such a penchant for understanding foreign languages revealed itself early in Ross’ life. As a child, he immersed himself in Hebrew and has since been comfortable picking up whatever language he needs to know.
His general academic curiosities led him to take some introductory East Asian Studies courses during his freshman year, and by the winter of his sophomore year, Ross was midway through his Chinese language courses and anxious to pack his bags and experience China firsthand.
He wanted to study Chinese language and culture in-depth, so he chose the summer program at Bei Wei University in Beijing for its intensity and prestige. Ross said he wanted to understand the world as a whole place, not separate ones.
He also said he wanted to compare and contrast Chinese society with American and Russian societies, not only to discover their differences but also their similarities educationally, politically and in terms of family.
His summer study involved four hours of class time and an additional 90 minutes per day of one-on-one language tutoring. More important than the class time and tutoring to Ross were the two weeks that he spent in the town of Chengde.
There, Ross joined with a group of local Chinese students to live with area families and study at the local school. His time with local students proved the most valuable.
As fascinating as Ross finds the Chinese culture, the Chinese students found his American culture. He debated and philosophized with his newfound friends, mixing between English and Chinese as they conversed.
With each discussion and each new cultural understanding, Ross fulfilled his study goals.“I can live my whole life in the States, but I only have a limited opportunity to live in China.
By learning the language, I will understand the society, and I believe that is the only real way to understand the Chinese perspective.”
FUNDING THE FUTURE
The largest single foundation grant ever received by a Wittenberg program or department, the four-year $1.9 million Freeman Foundation grant awarded to the university’s East Asian Studies program, has significantly increased, strengthened and popularized the teaching of Asia at Wittenberg across disciplines.
In the last two years alone, more than $350,000 has been spent to send more than 150 students and faculty to East Asia, including student groups, for study, research, competition or performance.
Thirty-eight students with the men’s and women’s basketball teams traveled to China in 2002, followed by students in the Honors Program earlier this year.
Sixty members of the Handbell Choir and Chamber Singers headed to South Korea and Japan this summer, while eight participants in Wittenberg’s Springfield-Teacher Institute traveled to Japan.
On campus, the grant has supported Japanese and Chinese language courses for incoming students, six East Asian Studies teaching fellows, Asian programming in the Wittenberg Series for two consecutive years, and a new Freeman Foundation project administrator/counselor position in the Office of Admission.
During dinner in a small restaurant in central Beijing, Wittenberg religion professor Jennifer Oldstone-Moore told a group of colleagues with whom she would be traveling to Tibet the following day about an e-mail that she received from Kevin McAninch, one of her students, a few weeks earlier.
Between bites of food she explained that Kevin was studying in Beijing for the summer and had written because he couldn’t wait to tell her about the weekend excursion he had taken with his class to travel by horseback in Inner Mongolia.
Such excitement about learning defines Kevin, who never thought he would spend time in China during his Wittenberg career.
By the time sophomore year rolled around, he found himself fulfilling more of his general education requirements and, as part of those requirements, taking class outside the science department.
To fulfill his “non-western culture” credit, Kevin enrolled in a Chinese archeology course. Although some science majors might fund such a class somewhat intimidating, Kevin felt right at home and actually found the class to be a refreshing change of pace from the time he spent in the lab.
So comfortable in fact, he opted to take an advanced seminar on Confucianism the following semester. That’s when Kevin said everything clicked, and he decided he needed to see China up close and personal.
For someone who admits that the study of languages is not his first passion or even his second for that matter, Kevin found himself surprisingly comfortable in his new environment at Bei Wei Univeristy in Beijing.
Not only was it his first time abroad, but the experience offered him his first glimpse into the world outside traditional American education. Bei Wei’s summer program brings together students from across the United States to study together with Chinese instructors and peer tutors.
As part of every international student’s study at Bei Wei, a research paper, on the student’s topic or choice, is required at the end of the term.
Most students choose to study some aspect of politics, language, culture or history, but Kevin decided to focus his research on something closer to his future career — medicine.
As such, Kevin explored some of China’s 3,000-year-old medical treatments, which remain a significant part of Chinese culture and around the world.
Chinese traditional medicine is based on the principle of balance with a strong focus on herbs and alternative therapeutic techniques such as acupuncture.
How then could a western-born, science-minded scholar like Kevin find this non-scientific discipline so fascinating? “It works,” he said.
After writing his research paper, Kevin was so intrigued by his findings that he went to a discount book store in Beijing and purchased several more books on the subject to bring home with him for additional reading.
“I’d like to do more research in this area. There is a lot of success in Chinese traditional medicine that western medicine cannot explain. Conventional western medicine’s use of drug therapy sometimes looks inferior to the results the Chinese have had with their approach.”
So intrigued by these techniques, Kevin has decided to work them into his junior and senior research projects. “I want to learn more and try to apply some of what I have read in the lab.”
There is a small café near Bei Wei University that Luke Horner ’05 frequented to pick-up a coffee during his summer in Beijing.
The café is typical of many of the cafés found throughout the world — comfortable chairs lit by large windows that make it hard to leave so most patrons decide to order a second cup, read that next chapter, or continue conversations well beyond the time originally anticipated.
Growing up in South Dakota and then settling into the small town of West Liberty, Ohio, during high school, Luke never imagined he would be sipping a cup of brew in a Beijing café.
“I didn’t really expect to travel to China, ever,” Luke said. “I didn’t expect to travel to a lot of the places I have during my time at Wittenberg.”
Luke subscribes to the philosophy of “treat others as you would like to be treated.” Those who come in contact with him can expect to find an innately curious person with a range of world experiences.
In the last three years, Luke has spent time in Cuba, Guatemala and Nicaragua, as well as a semester in Washington, D.C. Such opportunities piqued his interest in China.
Before leaving for the summer, Luke set clear goals about what he wanted to accomplish while in Beijing.
He had strong feelings about his role as a United States citizen and as a citizen of the world community and wanted to experience China for what it is, today, in 2004.
The things that make China politically, socially and culturally unique were of great importance in his intellectual pursuits.
Luke also realized that China was at a unique place in its history and that his opportunity to live in the country during its transitional period to a market economy, while still maintaining its communist political system, would be a one-of-a-kind opportunity.
Additionally, Luke wanted to understand China’s current and future relationship with the United States better. While in Beijing, Luke found himself comparing his experiences in other developing nations with China.
“Spending time somewhere is really the best way to make connections,” Luke explained. At the same time, Luke admits that making connections requires a lot of time and study.
Luke said it’s his concern for the world that prompts him to consider so many sides of an issue, but it’s his openness toward new ideas that brought him to China.
Every day and every experience in China, Luke analyzed and then questioned how he could help and wondered what he could bring back to the table.
Luke values the core principles of Wittenberg — faith, service and learning and understands how they can extend far beyond the classroom. “If you really want to serve humanity, you need to learn the whole picture of humanity, not just the American view.”
MATTHEW BURKE '02
Using his youth for fuel, Matthew began working in Beijing immediately after graduation and just two years after studying at the Beijing Foreign Studies University his junior year.
“The overall exposure that you get in an international city like Beijing is something that you could never get in the United States, not even in places like New York or Los Angeles,” Matthew Burke ’02 explained.
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Matthew recalls his mother repeatedly telling him that he could do anything the wanted, and the 24-year-old listened.
He now serves as director of marketing for one of Beijing’s premier interior design and architecture firms, Roberts Interiors and Architecture.
MATT FISH '99
“China is going to continue to grow at this breakneck pace for the next 20 years or so, but that doesn’t make it easy landing a dream job here,” said Matt Fish ’99.
Living in the heart of Shanghai’s French Concession, Matt is the Head of Business Consulting for Synovate Business Consulting and is an expert on the Asian economic markets.
As an East Asian Studies major, Matt credits his professors for giving him the discipline to traverse the Chinese job market and succeed.
“They were really amazing at turning us on to the possibilities, opportunities and unique lifestyle available on this side of the world. I really can’t thank Dr. Huffman, Dr. Mickel and the East Asian Studies department enough.”
REBECCA TORSELL '04
Rebecca Torsell ’04 lives the liberal arts. A self-designed interdepartmental major in World Culture, Torsell combined management courses with a focus on Eastern and Western cultures.
She further honed her French skills, and, armed with a love of learning, she then decided that the only way to learn a third language was to study abroad.
Within a month of receiving her degree, Rebecca left her small hometown of St. Mary’s, Ohio, and headed to Shanghai to study Chinese language at the prestigious Fudan University.
Originally scheduled to spend the summer prior to her senior year studying in Shanghai, Rebecca refused to let the delay stemming from the 2003 SARS outbreak get her down.
On the flight to China, she eagerly initiated conversations with fellow seatmates about the country, many of whom have since become potential international business colleagues and networking contacts.
Once at school, she rarely slept as a result of sheer excitement at the opportunity to study in China and her “go-get-it” attitude. “I felt alive every second of the day in China,” Rebecca said.
“It was a taste of something that I never thought I could have, but all it took for me to see that I could accomplish or strive for anything in this world was the small exposure to what was at one time so foreign to me.
Once you get the initial taste, you can’t help but go after the full course.”
Before leaving the states, Rebecca said she was distinctly aware of what a few months of international study could do for her hopeful career in international business or the Foreign Service, so she didn’t waste a minute while there.
She made multiple friends from China, Sweden, England and Italy as well as from across the United States. Her genuine disposition and passion for learning and life also fueled much of her success in making business and teaching contacts during her stay.
“I came to realize in my time at Wittenberg that you aren’t living your life until you’ve seen other places in the world,” she said. “The world has so much to teach, and I am ready to listen. China did that for me, and I welcomed it with open arms.”
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112