By Nicole Gennarelli
School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) student David Mease interacted with students and professors from around the world this summer while attending The Sichuan University International Course Weeks program at Sichuan University (SCU) in Chengdu, China.
According to a CNN article, as of July 1, 2013, Chengdu’s population was 14 million people and growing. Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan Province located in Southwest China. In the West, the city is surrounded by the Qionglai Mountains and sits at the edge of the Sichuan Basin. According to Sichuan University’s website, there are more than 40,000 undergraduate students, 20,000 master’s students and Ph.D. candidates, and 1,000 foreign students. Students from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan also attend the university.
Mease, a SLIS student with a concentration in information science and a focus on user experience design and information application and system design, is pursuing his degree at the SLIS location in Columbus (State Library of Ohio) and plans to graduate in spring 2014.
This past summer, he traveled to Chengdu from June 27 to July 21 to take classes, learn about different cultures and China’s history, and travel the region. The Sichuan University International Courses Week is largely funded by SCU, one of the largest universities in China, Mease said.
“SCU invites a limited number of universities from around the world, and Kent State was one of the schools chosen this past year,” he said. “The invited schools then nominate a group of students and a group of professors, from which a number are then selected and invited to come for the three-week program in Chengdu, China.”
Mease was able to select from a wide range of courses taught by different professors from around the world. He took two courses, Chemistry from Ancient Religious Texts taught by Dr. Jason J. Chruma of SCU and Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs taught by Professor George Bigham of Kent State. Mease was also able to engage with Chinese students in SCU-hosted discussions and debates on topics such as world history, politics and economics.
“This was such a valuable trip in relation to my interest in information science,” Mease said. “One of the Chinese graduate assistants did a great job setting up contacts and interesting discussions for me with several computer science students from SCU. We talked about their current research and how it related to semantic analysis and knowledge management. I am looking forward to the possibility of working with them on future projects.”
When Mease first found out about this study abroad program, he couldn’t believe it; it sounded too good to be true.
“I thought visiting one of the world’s oldest cultures and now one of the largest and growing economies would be an amazing opportunity,” he said. “To be immersed in Chinese culture, to learn with some of the top Chinese students, and to make relationships with faculty and students for future projects − how could I pass that up? My only concern was that I wouldn’t be chosen, considering how many people I expected to apply for the program.”
In addition to the courses and conversations, two of Mease’s favorite activities were visiting the Sichuan Panda Base and the Dujiangyan irrigation system.
“Giant pandas are native to the Sichuan region, and the trip to see them at the Sichuan Panda Base was fun,” he said. “Another highlight was our trip to the Dujiangyan irrigation system. It is a massive earthwork that controls flood waters and irrigation to the whole region. At more than 2,000 years old, it’s amazing that it’s still in use, and largely with the original design.”
Based on this travel experience, Mease is really looking forward to finding new projects on which to collaborate with some of the students and faculty he met in China.
“With my work in business and areas of interest in the SLIS program, the opportunity to see how culture, education and business in China operate was very valuable,” Mease said. “It was surprising to me how the people, and specifically the widespread entrepreneurial culture, are so similar to the United States.”