Posted September 23, 2013 by Felix Chrome in Letters & Opinion
 
 

A Journey to China, Evergreen Style

Pam_calligraphy_for_web
Pam_calligraphy_for_web

Sometimes a place calls you; sometimes you are lucky enough to answer the call. We don’t get to ask why and in not being able to ask, we certainly don’t always get an answer. The pull is there and so we end up in some distant land questioning, why am I here? Being open to the overall experience allows for an awakening. I knew China would change my life before I went – upon my return I felt transformed.

Hirsh Diamant, an Evergreen faculty member, led our group in China. Diamant and I were a perfect match because of our shared interest in Daoism. I had spent my previous summer immersing myself into the concepts of Daoism. When I enrolled in Business and Culture along the Silk Roads, my main interest was taking a look at China’s business and culture since our countries have created a strong tie that will not be disappearing anytime soon. In the beginning of the program, I had to work through a personal bias I was holding on to from media infiltration that had downloaded into my consciousness. Part of me was convinced that China was a “bad” guy. Yet I had been enamored by chinese medicine, martial arts, literature and spiritual practices for many years. How can a country that has an alluring culture be all bad? – it can’t. As a class we worked through and examined our bias and once I traveled to China I discovered a genuine, living culture that contradicted the vilified image projected in our media, proving that stereotyping is an inaccurate way to look at the world.

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Xi’an student helper Liu with a Daoist monk. Photo courtesy of Pam Zogman.

When I enrolled in the program, I had no idea I would be traveling to China – I didn’t have the funds for the journey. Michael Clifthorne came to our class and promoted the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which grants funding to students to travel abroad. If he had not come to my class, I never would have applied for, and then received, the scholarship that made this trip possible. In my experience, “someone else” is always awarded the scholarship, so why bother? This time, I thought, “Let me give it a shot; if I am meant to go, it will happen.” Apparently, it was meant to be. I am pointing this out to other students to apply for scholarships if you have the desire – don’t let fear stand in your way.

Going back to Hirsh Diamant, his strong interest in Daoism was a blessing for me because Hirsh included many temple visits into our cultural experience.  My personal favorite was the cave where Lao Tzu wrote the Dao De Jing. At this site, we encountered the most blissful monk that gave a pure example of living the Dao. His essence was sweet, playful and childlike, yet his wisdom immense. He demonstrated that when we remove the clutter that goes on in our brain, we can live in a more peaceful, blissful way. That concept is a lifetime pursuit, so I can’t extrapolate too deep in a small article, yet I encourage you to look into Daoism if that ideal strikes a chord.

One of our hosts, the WuYi University, took special care of us. We were introduced to the art of making tea, Qigong, calligraphy, and watched an outstanding Chinese outdoor performance that surpassed any theatrical experience I have had in my life. In Hangzhou we were introduced to business students that had a mutual interest in our country and thoughts on business. It was intriguing to exchange ideas on ideals and philosophies for emerging entrepreneurial mindsets from two different cultures. This immersion went on from morning into the night as Hirsh Diamant kept us go, go, going. He really packed a tremendous amount of learning in just 21 days. I was exhausted, but grateful for the enriching experience.

The point of this article is to inspire other students to seize this educational opportunity. Traveling abroad was the highlight of my Evergreen experience. Experiencing other cultures will expand your views and potentially add market value to your resume. As Michael Clifthorne aptly states, “Studying abroad is like getting CPR.  It jolts you out of a cultural dead zone, engages you again in the wonder of humanity, and rewards you with vibrant perspective on one’s choices for living.”

If you want to learn more about traveling abroad at Evergreen, check out the Academic Catalog’s study abroad link or the second floor of the Library, to the right of the main entrance. Also check out the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship at www.iie.org/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program.

You can also contact Michael Clifthorne at clifthom@evergreen.edu for more ways to help fund your travels.

A big thanks to Hirsh Diamant, Evergreen, and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program!

By Pam Zogman, contributing writer