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A Research Trip to Shangri-La

Over fall break, Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate student Cady Deck traveled to Yunnan Province to conduct research with classmates for their course Chinese and American Thought: Bilingual Perspectives. Leading up to the trip, they learned about the area in Yunnan known as Shangri-La and its religions, myths, and ethnic diversity. The class then split into three groups, focusing on either the myth of Shangri-La, Tibetan Buddhism in Shangri-La, or ethnic minorities in Shangri-La. Each international student was paired with a Chinese student and each pair determined their own subtopic based on one of the three broader subject areas.

For Cady and her classmates, the opportunity to learn about Shangri-La firsthand outside of the classroom was a valuable experience. They spent the week interviewing locals, shop owners, and tourists. In their small groups, they were given the freedom to decide where they wanted to go, what they wanted to do, and how they wanted to do it. Because they had a full day in Kunming and the group was researching ethnic minorities, they decided to go to the Yunnan Nationalities Museum. The museum was interesting and informative, but the best part was running into an entire group of Miaozu men and women who were also exploring the museum. The group interviewed several of the women about their lives in Yunnan and discovered that they were in Kunming as part of a government program to learn the sewing techniques of other ethnic minorities.

This trip was also a great bonding opportunity not only among themselves but also with their Chinese classmates outside of the school’s main campus. Going to class together two times every week for two hours is one thing, but spending a week traveling with a group of people is a completely different experience. Since coming back from the trip, Cady has noticed that the class dynamics have changed in a positive way. People who were merely classmates before are now close friends and as a result, conversations in class flow much more smoothly.