So, last month I probably had the one of the most defining trips that I've ever been on. About three years ago, at the end of my freshman year, it was drawing close to finals and I was sitting in HIS-210 (Modern East Asia) taught by Professor Jeff Snyder-Reinke. We'd moved through most of the topics that were on the syllabus and on this day Dr. Snyder was showing us a slideshow. The pictures he showed us were captured two years earlier in the western provinces of China. These weren't stills commissioned for research purposes though. They showed grimy coyotes, carrying backpacks and covered in dust. For some reason, this immediately appealed to me.
Every few years, Dr. Snyder and Dr. Rob Dayley from the political economy department lead student trips to different parts of China to study different aspects of the changing country. These trips aren't just sightseeing jaunts -- students are required to take a semester long preparation course dealing with the topic/region and during the trip we were required to keep detailed journals in addition to writing a paper based on a specific subject we observed while we were there. I'll be honest, sometimes I felt like the journals were a hassle. But after the experience, I've realized that being forced to actively contemplate and reflect on what I was seeing each day really helped me take back more than what I arrived with.
We're all subject to our own beliefs and biases, and in the United States I've had plenty of conversations with friends and relatives about what China's economic rise means to the rest of the world. I'm not saying that a trip to China cured me of my subjective perceptions, but being on the ground, seeing the rigors of a landscape being shaped equally by machines as well as human hands gave me a piece of what I was missing in my musings.
In any case, it was quite a way to finish off my history minor. I'm fascinated by the history of Asia, and until this last month it was always something abstract that I couldn't really examine personally. But now at least I can say that I've had a taste. I've got the stamps to prove it.
Our trip stretched from Yunnan, Tibet and finally Beijing. I got in the habit of sending out an email to my friends/family every few days with a summary of what had been happening. I've put a few online that I think give you the best sense of my experience across the country.
More photos in a few days.
- Andrew Moore