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Field Trips & Independent Travel

Field Advisers, Independent Study courses, Service Learning, or Internships

Students with sufficient preparation may design one or two independent study projects, service learning projects or internships (all referred to as independent study projects or ISPs) within certain given cultural, linguistic and political boundaries and in consultation with their faculty adviser and/or field adviser.

Independent Study GCHI 342-3, 390-399, 423-4, 390-99, 423-4, 490-99 (1- 5 Credits)

Students may design a guided independent study project (ISP) with their faculty adviser and/or field adviser. Field advisers are professionals and specialists who can offer students more in-depth study of a chosen field through an ISP or specially arranged lectures and courses. In consultation with the advisor and field advisor (if one is assigned) students will create a proposal as part of their learning plan that will include specific learning goals, internship or service learning placements (if appropriate), methods to be undertaken, reading and written assignments, places (if any) to be visited and a timeline for completing the course. The learning goals must be consistent with the student's abilities (language, methodological etc.) as determined by the advisor in consultation with the student. First-semester students may not take more than a total of four credits and second semester students may not take more than a total of eight credits of independent studies without permission from their faculty adviser and the support of the academic director. Students have conducted a wide range of ISP projects in recent semesters, including studies in the following subjects:

Psychology: An Epistemological and Hermeneutical Critique of Psychoanalytic Chan/Zen

  • Religion: Tibetan Buddhist New Year Rituals in Amdo
  • Philosophy: The Philosophy of Laozi
  • Social Science: Development of Civil Society Organization in Mainland China
  • Education: Deaf Education and Chinese Sign Language
  • Socio-linguistics: Social Implications of Mandarin vs. Dialect Use
  • Ecology and Development: Tourism and the Yunnan’s Nujiang River Valley;

Environmental Policy in China; Tea Culture; Bamboo Culture

  • Medicine: Traditional Chinese Massage Techniques
  • Literature: The Chinese Writer as Social Activist
  • Art: Chinese Calligraphy; Daoist Elements in Chinese Painting
  • Women Studies: Contemporary Chinese Women Writers
  • Ethnomusicology: A Comparative Study of Western Traditional and Chinese

Ethnic Musical Forms

  • Politics: The Personality Cult of Mao Zedong; Policies of Liberation between
  • 1949 and the Present
  • History: History of the Cultural Revolution
  • Martial Arts: Wushu, Qigong and Taiji Traditions of Martial Arts
  • Education: Language Acquisition and Ethnic Minorities in Eastern Tibet

The following are some example regional and extended field trips:

Suichang County

About one month after arriving in China, students have the opportunity to travel to the small town of Suichang in Zhejiang Province. Here students will live in this rural mountain community with local Chinese families for one week during the National Day holiday, also called Golden Week in East Asia. During this time the local high school students studying in Hangzhou return home to be with family, so every student will be matched with a home-stay brother or sister able to speak rudimentary English. Students will explore this town together with their home-stay families, visiting the local high school, a Buddhist Monastery in the mountain and the former residence of the Ming dynasty playwright, Tang Xianzu, the author of the 17th century classic, The Peony Pavilion, or the stone bridges in the surrounding hill that date back to the Qing dynasty. Our host families in Suichang are some of the warmest and most welcoming people one could hope to meet, and many enduring friendships are made between students and their host families. The group will also travel to a national wilderness reserve and hike through remote and unspoiled mountains, which local lore claims to be inhabited by a type of elusive Wildman, and we may spend one night in a remote mountain village with architecture and cobbled lanes dating back to the Ming dynasty.


Students will have the opportunity to visit the capital of China in early November of fall semester for a period of seven to ten days. Activities in Beijing are an integral and important part of the Area Studies course, Modern Chinese History. In Beijing students will visit the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven; in addition we may visit the Daoist White Cloud Abbey, the early seventeenth-century tomb of Italian Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, and the Dongyue Temple, with its ghastly dioramas of hell. Students may also have the opportunity to candidly discuss flashpoints in Sino-American relations, including trade imbalance with the United States and tensions across the straights with Taiwan, with the Chinese government's top political strategist with the Chinese central intelligence agency. Later that day, students might meet with representatives for the U.S. Department of State for a brief on the same issues in our bilateral relations from our own government's perspective, so students can compare different political views on these important contemporary problems that threaten regional and global security. In the past students have also screened movies with the underground film director, Wang Chao, and have toured urban artist communities. We will also hike along wild sections of the Great Wall.


A weekend trip will be taken to Suzhou from Hangzhou by overnight boat on the Grand Canal, the historic main channel of transportation in the southern region. Students will then experience the tranquility and exquisite architecture and plants at The Lingering Garden and The Retreat & Reflection Garden of Suzhou, as well as taking in the sights of the local canal villages.


In this quaint Qing dynasty village, students will have the opportunity to explore its many cobbled lanes and bridges, as well as to tour the Ancient Chinese Sex Culture Museum, the only private museum of its kind in China, which was founded by the sexologist, Liu Dalin.


Soon after the students arrive for the spring semester, there will be an opportunity to participate in a trip to southwestern Yunnan province as part of the Area Studies course on Chinese ethnic minorities. Yunnan is home to over half of the ethnic minorities in China and so stands out as a colorful and diverse place in comparison to coastal China. As the major trip of the semester, the students may spend almost two weeks visiting and traveling areas from the Tibetan highlands in northern Yunnan all the way down to the tropical Thai areas on the southern tip that border Myanmar (Burma). Homestays in the historic and beautiful old-town of Lijiang of the Naxi people in northern Yunnan and with the Thai people in the south may be organized for the students and often prove to be an incredibly fruitful language learning and cross-cultural understanding exercise for the students. In addition, students may have the opportunity to experience the sacredness of a Tibetan monastery in Shangrila as well as meet with experts on local religious traditions. A meeting with a local environmental NGO and viewing of magnificent mountain lake may also give students another perspective on the vast changes being caused by development and tourism. Finally, in the capital of Kunming, the students may have a chance to experience this city of “eternal spring” and make critical observation of representation and identity of ethnic minorities in sites such as ethnic theme parks.


Students will have the opportunity to visit this exciting and dynamic cosmopolitan city to view the colonial architecture along the Bund, the Shanghai Museum, People's Square and to see a contemporary play and Shanghai jazz performance. An aerial panoramic view of this quickly developing city will also be taken in from atop the Jin Mao Tower. Students will also have the opportunity to enjoy the city's rightly famous shopping and nightlife.


In a spring semester Area Studies field trip, students might visit the site of Nanjing massacre, where atrocities were committed by Japanese occupational forces during World War II, and the Monument of Aviation Martyrs, where WW II Allied, mostly American, aviators who fell in defending China are commemorated. Students might attend lectures given by a specialist on the Japanese occupation of Nanjing and a professor of Sino-US relations from the Johns Hopkins Center in Nanjing. Students might also visit the Presidential Palace, which housed China's first national president, the memorial tomb of Sun Zhongshan (Dr. Sun Yat-sen), considered the father of modern China in both the mainland and Taiwan, and other historic sites that witnessed significant events when Nanjing served four times as China's capital.


Students may visit the former residence of Lu Xun, one of the greatest Chinese writers of the twentieth century, Qiu Jin, one of the greatest feminists and female revolutionaries of the same period, and Lu You, a famous poet and writer of the twelfth century who is also known for his own personal tragic love story. Nearby students can view the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi from the fourth-century, and the Mausoleum of Yu the Great, the semi-legendary cultural hero of China who is said to have controlled a deluge some four thousand years ago.