China Reflections – Stephanie Hammons

When my boss first asked if I would like to go on the CI China trip I knew it would be exciting, but I was a little hesitant because I have never traveled to another country before.  But even with the voice of reason talking me out of it, I chose to go. I am so happy that I made the right decision.

Since I work very closely with Chinese faculty, staff, and students who are studying the Chinese Language, this trip was to give me an idea of their culture so that I understand better when there may be a communication breakdown.  This is the most important thing I learned on this trip. Before attending the program I could not understand why my Chinese co-workers were so persistent when they were in need, and would not be as patient as the non-Chinese employees. After attending the program I see that it is the culture to push and insist because there are so many people in China, you cannot be passive. This is the most valuable piece of knowledge I gained from the trip because I now have a better understanding, and I know I need more patience.

This trip far exceeded my expectations, but it mostly because of our wonderful student escorts on the trip. Sookie and Leonard were absolutely the best part of the trip. They were with us every step of the way and if something seemed to be going wrong for any of us, they were there in an instant to make sure it was corrected. However, as great as the trip was, there is always room for improvement. I recommend that the courses be scheduled from 8am to 11am and then schedule any travel after the classes. The way the classes were arranged, we were rushed to do anything after, and had 2 hours waste in between. This will also allow for the trips to be split better. For example, we visited The Great Wall and The Summer Palace on the same day, and a Saturday to boot. This is too much in one day, and since The Summer Palace is so popular and visited by so many people it would have been better if the visit was during the week so that there were less people. It was so busy that all we had time to do is walk straight through without looking at anything. Another thing that I would change is maybe a visit to something outside the big cities. There are so many absolutely beautiful places in China; I know there is more to see than just the large cities. Finally, the last thing I would change is the disorganization in the overall leadership. The person who was in charge of this program seemed to not know what was happening most of the time, and relied on the students to help her out. The original schedule had to be disregarded after the second day because it was discovered that she had the incorrect date of our departure so it threw the classes completely off schedule. When the schedule had to change there seemed to be a lack of communication with the program’s leader and our leader.

My overall impression from the trip was great, and I would recommend it to anyone. This recommendation is in large part due to the great student guides, and the beautiful places in China to see.

 Thank you,

Stephanie Hammons

China 2012


The trip to China was a very unforgettable and wonderful experience.  The biggest challenges were the flights from Chicago to Beijing, and Beijing to Chicago, and the

biological clock changes as a result;  surprisingly (unexpectedly for me), it was more difficult to adjust after flying East to West rather than the usual, west to east.  The teachers of the Chinese Language class, Dance class, and Kong Fu were friendly, and fun, and the classes were enjoyed at North China Electric Power University, which has a very good campus (beautiful, but not as much so as WKU).  Having read and discussed the population of China, it was still mind-boggling to actually see the population, greatly defined by the difficulty with transportation due to the incredible volume of vehicles, and buses, and subway trains which repeated every 5 minutes or less.  Another astonishing observation was the lack of private homes, as well as the number of high-story apartment buildings in Beijing.  The other part of the trip was being a tourist, and traveling around Beijing, where we were able to see the Great Wall, on steep mountain ranges, for which walking along it was challenging.  We also saw the Tian’anmen Square, and the incredible Forbidden City next to it, which is 600 years old and very impressive as a residence for their Emperors. Also, the Summer Palace was a beautiful area for those Emperors as well.  The numbers of tourists in all of the places we visited were quite large and crowded.  Another very memorable trip involved a ride on a “Bullet Train” which was very smooth, even at 176 mph.  The Botanical Garden was quite large, very beautiful, and had a Buddhist Temple, which also was quite old.  On another day, we visited the Heavenly Temple area, part of which used in seeking relief from droughts, and also the 2008 Olympic “Bird Nest Stadium” and the  Beijing National Aquatics Center, where the swimming and diving were done.  Both of those facilities were large, and attractive.    We also did some shopping, and the silk and pearl locations demonstrated how these products are produced in addition to selling them.

I highly recommend our faculty, staff, and students to participate in these trips, as the experience and the education is very difficult to match.

Summer Camp 2012: Reflections in China – Amanda Coates Lich

Confucius Institute Summer Camp 2012:  Reflections on China

Amanda Coates Lich

            I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Hanban, the Confucius Institute, and North China Electric Power University for hosting my fellow adventurers and me during the 2012 Summer Camp.  I found the experience to be very enjoyable and rewarding and I enjoyed every moment of the trip.  Per your request, I wanted to provide some feedback about the experience.

What did you learn from the trip?  Wow!  Where to begin?  I learned something new every single day.  I learned that Chinese and American families have many similarities, including national pride, a desire for a better life for their children, and, for most, a competitive drive to succeed.  I learned that there is a not a “better” way of doing things, just a “different” way of doing things.  I was reminded of how important it is to just “roll with it” when things don’t go exactly as planned and how much more enjoyable life is when you appreciate the fact that not everyone is the same (with that sentiment, I am speaking both of my fellow adventurers and of the Chinese in general!)  I learned how much easier it is to achieve great things (bullet train, Great Wall, Forbidden City, etc.) in a political structure that allows for immediate and decisive action, but I also realized what a huge price is paid (emphasis on the well-being of the whole v. desire of the individual) to achieve those great things.  I admire the vibrancy of the Chinese culture, the complexity of the language, and the incredible history of the Chinese civilization.  I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to visit China and look forward to my eventual return.

Did the trip meet or exceed your expectations?  The trip far exceeded my expectations.  I enjoyed every single aspect of it.  I found the classes educational, the tours enjoyable, and the student guides very helpful and engaging.  I think the title of the program “CI Summer Camp” conveys the fact that our schedule was to be busy and that accommodations might not be “four star” hotels.  It seemed that we were “on the go” for much of the trip, but with only two weeks to see this incredible country that is exactly the schedule that should be expected.

What did you like the most?  The tours were amazing, the teachers were well-prepared and helpful, the university hotel facility was nice and clean, and the company of my fellow travelers made the trip so enjoyable, but above all, my favorite part of the trip was meeting our student guides, Sookie and Leonard.  These two students made the trip magical and helped us see China through their eyes.  They love their country and they are very proud of all China’s heritage and achievements and their enthusiasm and hospitality made the trip a life-changing experience.

What is your overall impression of the trip?  I had a wonderful time in China.  I think the trip offered a great balance of educational and tourist opportunities.  I applaud the effort of the CI to make sure our cultural immersion experience was an enjoyable one and I thank you for the opportunity!

China Trip Reflections – Kesi Neblett


My legs burned, my breathes came quicker, and my face was lightly coated in perspiration. Yet, none of that was significant to the fact that for the past hour, I had been walking the same steps that messengers, workers, and warriors had walked hundreds of years ago. I had reached the top of the Great Wall. As I looked over the edge, I sent thanks to those who had died and exhausted themselves to create such a wonder. I understood that the Great Wall was built from more than bricks and mortar, but was allowed to withstand time because of the blood that ran through its structure. Classrooms and lesson plans could not have prepared me for what I experienced. At the top of the Great Wall, I realized that this was a symbol of how astounding China truly was.

Weeks before we departed for China, I had been researching traditional Chinese buildings to receive insight on a Green home project. I remember reading that architecture in China is seen as a part of nature and meant to last. Both concepts are lost in American architecture. I could not have asked for a better opportunity than to see authentic Chinese architecture first hand. It is one thing to read about the structure of a traditional timber-framed Chinese building, but to see brackets, purlins, wall systems, and likewise with my own eyes is another.

Being able to interact with the people in China on and off campus was impactful. I love playing basketball, and a few times I would go to the basketball courts on campus and play with the students. Often times, my teammates and I had limited communication because of language barriers, yet we were still able play the game we all loved with each other. At grocery stores, service desk, and in streets, I was able to connect with workers, employees, and students.  I can now say that I have friends from across the world.

While I was on the departure flight to China, I felt the excitement build inside of me. I took Chinese lessons from a kind lady beside me and wrote about everything that was to come. Now, I am thoroughly convinced that I could not have day dreamed nor could I have written anything close to the two weeks I had spent in China.

Overall, everything was organized extremely well. However, when we have large amounts of free time, it would have been nice to have a variety of pre-determined trips that were optional. Also, I wish the whole group could have gone to the high school to interact with the students.  Lastly, being in China had so many different impacts on different people. Hearing everyone’s reflections in a group setting on the last night would be a good way to wrap up the trip.

I am so thankful I was able to be on this trip. Over the past two weeks, I have learned to appreciate the beauty and strength in a culture besides my own. From devouring amazing food to learning traditional dances, I am honored to that being in China is a chapter in my life.

China Trip – Michael Stephens MD

June 4, 2012

 Re:  China trip


            I must say that the trip did exceed my expectations, as I expected it to be very good, but it was thoroughly great.  We have read and discussed the China population, but I had never seen it, and it was mind-boggling with regard to the transportation / driving challenges there, and the apartment buildings, and no individual homes seen.  It certainly creates a lot of challenges to their government.  It was good to use a bus or subway.  The rapid train was awesome.

            The people on campus….students, faculty, and staff, were quite friendly and enjoyable.  The teachers were very good, and I enjoyed the classes…and wish some of them had not been cancelled.

            There is a challenge for me in deciding what was best, as I did enjoy classes as much as the sight-seeing, so it was good to do both.  It certainly was great to see the Great Wall, Tian’anmen Square and The Forbidden City, which itself was  incredibly amazing due to its time of existence.  I would not trade away the Botanical Garden either.

            I would say that the traveling three days in a row did result in tiring us….I think that had something to do with the frustration suspected from the Guide on the trip to the 2008 Olympic facilities.  I preferred the alternating schedule of classes and travel.  There isn’t anything I would delete from the trip. 

            The experience has been helpful in understanding the Chinese who come here, and they are no different…usually quite friendly people.  We will understand their culture and history.

            Thanks to everyone for the trip…you, Terrill, for managing the trip, as well as the Confucius Institute people, the North China Electric Power University (which is a good campus) and its faculty & staff, as well as WKU for sponsoring the trip.


                                                                                                   Michael Stephens MD

Impressions of Visit to China May 2012 – Lorrainne Baushke

Impressions of Visit to China May 2012

          Lorraine Baushke

 Our arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport on 16 May 2012 was the beginning of an incredible cultural experience for our group of twenty-eight from WKU in Bowling Green, KY.  The modern beautiful airport decorated with traditional Chinese art was a prelude to the incredible beauty of Beijing China, with its ancient history and culture underlying and supporting this distinctive international city.  Throughout the two week trip, this successful blend of old and new was evident in most of the places we visited in the Beijing region.  The trip exceeded my expectations in multiple ways. 

The perception of China from afar is different from the China we experienced as guests of Hanban/CI Headquarters.  Although I know that as guests, we were shown the “best face of China”, almost all cultures do the same.  Our human nature needs to show our guests our best – we clean our home, offer our best food and treat our guests with respect.  During our time in China, I felt that North China Electric Power treated us as their respected guests.  They taught us about the Chinese language and some of the Chinese arts of music, folk dance and Kung Fu.  Rather than just observing these disciplines, we participated.  This adds much more value to the experience.  Throughout our time in China, most of the people we met seemed honored to have us visiting their country. 

 One of the pleasant surprises for me was the food.  The variety and presentation of the many cuisines of China is remarkable.  The food experiences of those who came on the trip last year was helpful for us, as they introduced us to some of their favorite foods and places to eat them. 

 It is hard to isolate the best things about a trip that encompassed so many highlights.  Each day was an adventure of amazing experiences.  The key to enjoying each day was to remain flexible and open to new things.  The following reflects my impressions of the various activities and events we experienced as Summer Camp participants.


  • The Chinese language class was beneficial because from afar, the Chinese language of thousands of pictorial characters seems overwhelming and hard to learn.  The Ah Ha moment for me was in learning how the tones worked. 
    • This class would be improved with more focus on connecting the pinyin with English words.  The instructor used a lot of characters with the English words, and our time in class is too short to comprehend characters, except for maybe a couple of the most basic.  This improved during the later classes. 
  • The Kung Fu class was good and particularly beneficial to participate in, even though it was difficult for beginners to grasp. 
    • Repetition is the best way for beginners to learn and sometimes we were asked to copy the instructor before we knew enough about the moves. 
  • The Chinese Folk Dance was a good class, and again, repetition is what was needed to learn this art. 
    • An improvement might be to choose dance movements more appropriate for men, as this was a mixed group of men and women.
  • The trip to the Confucius Institute headquarters was extremely beneficial because it gave us an awareness of the mission of the CI program.  It was interesting to see all of the awards for universities around the world that participate in CI.  The cultural exhibits were very instructive.
    • An improvement to the educational experiences might be to have two classes in the morning instead of one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  This would give time in the afternoon to travel to another cultural site.  On the days this was arranged, we went to the Beijing Botanical Gardens.  Another day, we went to the Beijing Zoo. 



  • Great Wall and Summer Palace – this day was a highlight for me.  Some may have thought it should not have occurred on the first day, as people had jetlag, but I think it was fine because we were excited to be there and really were probably fresher than we were later in the trip. 
  • The visits to all other cultural sites were very enjoyable.  It was exciting to visit Tian’aman Square and the Forbidden City, the Olympic venues and the Temple of Heaven. 
    • For the most part, the guides on the tour buses were exemplary, but the tour guide we had for the visits to the Olympic venues was not very good.  She was unfriendly and did not have much patience. 



  • Another highlight for me was the visit to the middle and high school.  The principal was a great host and was proud to show off his school.  The teachers in the classes we observed were friendly and accommodating and the students were a joy to see.  I especially enjoyed talking to the English language students.
  • The trip to Tian Jin was fun, as we experienced the buses, subways and high speed train to get to the city.  It was great to see another city in China too.
  • I especially enjoyed the Beijing Botanical Gardens, especially the Rose Gardens.  Another great day was the afternoon trip to the Beijing Zoo.



  • The accommodations were excellent, the beds, towels and linens were wonderful and the staff was usually friendly.  The fruit and little welcome packages of toiletries were appreciated.   
    • An improvement would be to have internet access to talk to family at home and for some to access email, etc. for work purposes.  It was hard to believe that a highly technical university would have so much trouble with internet access. 
    • Another improvement might be to have a bedside lamp for reading purposes before bed, so the big lights would not have to be on all the time.  
    • It was great to have the students on campus and to see them living their normal lives.  I enjoyed interacting with some of the students.  It seems students are the same everywhere, enjoying conversation and physical activities, studying together and having fun.
    • The very best part of the university experience was the unselfish service of the two students assigned to help us with our stay at the university and China.  Leonard and Sookie (American names), were the glue that helped keep the whole experience together.  Their friendly personalities, their English language skills and their navigation skills made everything so much easier.  They helped connect us to China because most of us have no Chinese language skills.  They knew the best and safest places to eat, the directions to everywhere we wanted to go and the fun places to experience.  They had a talent for interacting with all ages of people on our trip and most of us would say they made two new friends in China.
      •  We hope they will be compensated in some way for their service to us.
      • The Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony in the Teahouse were a good way for us to begin our experience and to end our experience.  The Closing Ceremony was fun and reflected the cooperation established during the two weeks. 
        • Communication can always be improved and that is something we all need to work on.  People like to know what to expect and what is expected of them. My overall impression of the Summer Camp experience more than met my expectations.  I appreciate this opportunity to experience China so much and thank the Hanban/CI for helping to finance this trip for us.  When I think about the two weeks spent in China, I will always have good memories.    

 I think what I will leave with is that the people of China are like the people of the United States.  Family and friends are important to us all.  Most of the tourists at the cultural sites were Chinese, enjoying their multi-generational families.  It was a pleasure to see them enjoying their city. 

 The Chinese people were happy when we gave attention to their children and very proud of them too.  I was impressed with the emphasis on good experiences for children, from the child-friendly things to do at the zoo, to the children’s activities and games available at the mall to the way Chinese treat their children.  Generally, most of the Chinese people we met were friendly to us. 

 In a larger sense, the numbers of construction projects and little forests of homes (along the way to Tian Jin) going up in areas around Beijing and perhaps most of China are remarkable.  Signs of the progress of modern China are everywhere.  We saw so many cranes that it prompted one of the people in our group to say, “Do they buy cranes by the dozen?”  Another impression then is that we saw an evolving China – a China of the 21rst century, but a China that maintains its ties to its ancient cultural history. 

 So as I reflect on my Chinese adventure, I am left with the feeling that we are more alike than different.  Despite cultural differences, we and the Chinese people want a stable family life with good communities to live in with safe food and water, available utilities and a sense of security.  Hopefully, programs like the Confucius Institute will continue to foster that sense of outreach to others that will help to ensure world cooperation in the things that matter to all of us.

 Thank you again for the opportunity to come to China as your guest.

Made in China

Apart from pretty much everything tangible in America, there is something really awesome being made in China. As cheesy as this sounds, the friendships that are being made across racial, language, and age barriers has proved to be China’s top export, at least in my mind. I can’t imagine a place filled with more kind, more generous people. I have officially fallen in love.
My first encounter with a Chinese person in China was Leonard. I must make it clear that I know many Chinese people in the States, and, being a Flagship student, I have had the opportunity to make many Chinese friends. But, Leonard embodied the kindred spirit of China. He and I conversed in broken Chinese at about 2 in the morning, when I had first arrived on Chinese soil. After that, we were instantly friends.
I guess that is what most excited me about China, being able to connect with others, no matter what language we were speaking. And he is just the beginning. Hopefully, I will be able to come back from many more trips with many more “made in China” moments!

I’m Back in the USA!

Sookie, me, and Mrs. Jia's son...notice the bag of Hershey's Kisses that I used to bribe the children to say "hi"! LOL! I missed my own kids so much, but this helped! 🙂

WOW!  China was amazing!  So grateful to WKU, the CI, and Hanban to have been a part of the experience.  As Terrill indicated in his posts, the wifi was spotty at best, so I hope to “relive” the experience through some different posts/reflections/photos that I will post over the next week or so.  Already miss Sookie, Leonard, and the rest of my travel companions!  Thanks to ALL for a wonderful travel experience!!!

Random Thoughts – As Seen By Terrill Martin

Group Photo at the Temple of Heaven


May is the perfect time to visit Beijing. The skies were blue everyday. Unlike last year in July, Beijing does have blue skies. They do exist. LOL!!!


Traffic in Beijing China is no joke. It really reminds me of New York, New York during rush hour. Can anyone say bumper to bumper?


Group Photo at Tian'amen Square



Jade Factory
George Rasmussen standing next to an $80,000 piece of authentic jade. Oh, that is $80,000 USD, which equates to $480,000 RMB. George was standing too close for my comfort. Whew!!!


WKU has arrived in Tianjin. Ni hao? Still very much a developing country, as there were many buildings with cranes atop. Wonder what it will look like in 5 or 10 years?


Beijing China Botanical Garden. Words can't adequately explain the beauty of nature. I am in awe.


This picture just doesn't show how utterly full this bus was. OMG, it was hard to breathe.


Group picture in the hallway of Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters). Dr. Peter Hamburger (Also Known As - Mr. George Clooney), and I posing with the group.


The panda was just as cute in person as on TV.


I am standing in front of the fastest train that I personally have ever been on. It went up to 298 kilometers or 186 MPH. Didn't even feel it.

Spotty Internet Connection

To All,
Throughout the trip the Internet connection has ranged from spotty to non-existent. Not sure exactly what was going on, but there was not a reliable connection, which is why there are such few comments. Now that we have all returned home, I have encouraged everyone to keep journals and to document and update pictures of their journey. So, please keep coming back.

Terrill Martin