Santa Monica College partnered with the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies to send SMC faculty and staff to Beijing and Xi'an in China.
summer of 2015, Santa Monica College parntered with Bahcesehir University to send SMC faculty and staff to Istanbul and Cappadocia in Turkey.
Aileen Huang, Associate Professor, Business Department
How do characterize my trip to Turkey? That is a very tough question. It was once in a life time experience for me. From the call to prayer chanting you hear starting at 3am in the morning emanating from one of the three thousand mosques in Istanbul and repeated four other times throughout the day to the mixture of winding steep hills and modern western shops, Turkey was a blend of exotic smells, rich history, good food and meaningful religion. Professionally, it taught me to be more aware of how I think constantly. It reminded me to stay open-minded and don’t ever assume. It humbled me and lifted my spirits at the same time. I can stare out at the Bosphorous Strait forever and ever. Istanbul surrounded by the calming blue water was simply breath-taking.
The second city we visited was Cappadocia. It was a unique place. The mountain formations were incredible. To think that people used to live in the caves and underground in that historic region was just amazing. What a wonderful sight. If you have never been, I highly recommend Istanbul and Cappadocia. Visiting a place so new to me and so different from what I am used was just exciting and eye-opening. As an instructor, I needed that for my students so I can stay fresh and invigorated for them.
Carol Davis, Faculty, English Department
Turkey is a very complex, often contradictory society, one that is not easy to characterize. That is perhaps the most important lesson I got out of the experience. Walking the streets of Istanbul, we often came face to face with these contradictions, particularly the religious/secular divide. I was surprised to see young women in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts walking near groups of young women in black chadors or head scarves. A society with a very young population, the cafes were often full of old men smoking and playing games and talking. The constitution guarantees a Republic and a secular society, yet it is also a deeply religious society. The lesson is that one should not make generalizations about any society. This goes for our foreign students. Even when they are from the same country, they can be vastly different in backgrounds, class, religion, education and regions.
Chanté DeLoach, Faculty, Psychology Department
Turkey is a country of stark contrasts: modernity and historicity; religious and secular; East and West. The SMC professional development trip allowed me to bear witness to the expressions of these contrasts in Turkey. Interdisciplinary lectures provided varying contexts and perspectives from colleagues across disciplines. I was also able to meet with a colleague from the psychology department during which time we discussed the nuances of psychology in Istanbul and direction of the discipline. This was particularly enlightening professionally given my interest and work in international psychology. Ultimately, we were able to bring to life information presented in the lectures through extensive sight-seeing and cultural activities in country. In this way, Istanbul became an extension of the classroom and fostered a robust learning experience. As a psychologist, perhaps the most impactful aspect of the trip was to experience Turkey during Ramadan, particularly the multiple ways in which individuals and families take part in sacred religious and cultural traditions. In addition to fasting, the generosity, family time, and celebrations during this sacred time were beautiful to witness and share.
Overall, the trip increased my knowledge of Turkish culture and traditions as well as the continued challenges around issues of economics, education, and gender. I look forward to better integrating information on communication about religious discrimination, such as Islamaphobia and the use of religiospiritual practices to promote psychological well-being into my courses.
Consuelo Cardenas, Administrative Assistant, Information Technology
This was my first trip to Turkey and I am so grateful I was able to experience it with my SMC colleagues! There is nothing better than to experience a new place with a group of people that are open to learn so much about a country. Through lectures and guided tours I learned a lot about Turkey’s culture, food, education, architecture, and religion. One of the most memorable experiences during the trip was in Istanbul, during Ramadan, I witnessed how entire families gathered for dinner, listened to music when they’d break their fast. Another unforgettable experience was our visit to Cappadocia where we had the opportunity to have a homemade lunch. The food was so delicious and it was great to interact with local people. After this trip I feel I have a stronger understanding of the Turkish culture. It was an amazing experience! I feel fortunate that I have been able to immerse myself in another culture and learn so much about it. These types of experiences are amazing and really do assist in shaping our perspective from a global citizenship point of view. Thank you SMC for this invaluable professional development experience!
Dan Nannini, Transfer Center Faculty Leader, Counseling
I started my Turkey trip two days before the rest of the SMC group arrived, and spent 4 hours in the Archeological Museum. This gave me a true appreciation for 5000 year history of this part of the world, and the complexity of the people that have ruled, been subjugated, rebelled, conquered and all the other descriptions one can attribute to ‘civilization’. This museum experience gave me a foundation to look at all the different visitors and inhabitants of Istanbul, knowing that what appears new and unusual to me is just an extension of 5 millennia of history. Our academic presentations from the faculty of Bahceshir University (BAU) gave us a breadth of knowledge that enhanced the travel experience. I found I enjoyed the questions presented from fellow SMC travelers to the faculty, as well, because their questions illuminated information presented that I may have overlooked.
Delphine Broccard, Faculty, Communication & Media Studies Department
My time in Turkey was not only an opportunity to learn and immerse myself in a new culture, but also to bond with my SMC colleagues. This was my first experience traveling with coworkers, and my initial reservations were quickly replaced with laughter, in-depth life conversations and unforgettable moments in a foreign country. One of the most meaningful aspects of this experience will be the friendships I have made interdepartmentally and really feeling like a part of the ‘SMC family.’
Professionally speaking, I had a chance to meet with a Bahcesehir faculty and engage in dialogue about gender dynamics in the Turkish culture and the ways these are shaped in a predominantly Muslim country. At SMC, I teach Gender and Communication and, as a result, I am eager to incorporate a unit about the different perceptions and acceptance of gender roles in different countries, especially in relation to religion. Considering the heterogenic nature of both the U.S. and Turkey (religions, ethnicities, etc.), my goal is for us, as a class, to compare and contrast the two, where one serves as a frame of reference for the other. In turn, this will permit students to adopt a more ethnorelative stance, understanding and appreciating the intricacy of our interconnected world.
Jose Cue, Counselor, Counseling Department
I was attracted to the Turkey trip for several reasons. I had never been to a Muslim country. I wanted to experience the influence of Islam in Turkish in society, politics and everyday life. Having served on the Career Educational Committee (CTE) for several years and currently working as one of the counselors for the STEM/SRI program I also wanted to learn more about the educational system. Lastly, I was looking forward to meeting new SMC colleagues and interacting with them for two weeks.
I wasn’t disappointed. Istanbul is an exciting and exotic place with a rich history dating back to before the Byzantine period, through Ottoman Empire and to the current democratic state created by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The lectures and excursions provided by Bahçeşehir University were very incredible. The people were warm and accommodating. Visiting Mosques and hearing the sound of the müezzins dueling from their minarets was very educational. I feel that I return to SMC with a better understanding of Turkish society and the important role that tradition and religion still play in this modern, secular democracy. I plan to use my experiences in Turkey as I meet with students and serve on the Global Council.
Linda Sallovitz, Administrative Assistant, Communication & Media Studies and Psychology Departments
The closest I ever thought I’d get to the Middle East was Greece. When SMC’s Global Citizenship Program announced they were looking for applicant’s to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, I thought it would be such a fantastic opportunity. I am happy to report that it was more enriching and fulfilling than I imagined! The education and cultural programs SMC provided for us immersed us in the intricacies of Turkish history, politics, customs, cuisine, ideologies, language, current events and the uniqueness of Turkey’s physical location in relation to its’ neighboring countries.
For me, this immersion into new territory, ideas, sights, sounds and people has always been my “happiest place”. Getting out of what I know, into what I do not has always been physically, emotionally, and mentally stimulating and rewarding. The experiences I shared with my travelling companions and the relationships forged was a gift I wasn’t really expecting, but received evenly and happily.
In my capacity as an administrative assistant at SMC for the past 13 years I have had the opportunity to work with foreign students every year. Many years ago I was a foreign exchange student myself which made me acutely aware of the many difficulties our foreign students can face in a strange culture and country. After participating in the SMC Global Citizenship Program I have an even larger and richer perspective from which to work when assisting our students. Thank you EVERYONE who has made this possible!!!!!
Mary Colavito, Professor, Life Sciences Department
Throughout the Turkey Summer Program, I was introduced to the myriad historical and contemporary influences on the fascinating culture of Turkey. The impact on my teaching will come in two areas: a study of the health-promoting properties of the Turkish diet and an analysis of sustainability efforts as Turkey’s population grows and becomes increasingly urbanized.
Turkish cuisine integrates influences from Asia, Europe and the Middle East where the ingredients and the tradition of hospitality have great advantages in supporting well-being. The emphasis on vegetables, grains, and pulses promotes a healthy diet. We had a delicious illustration of this combination when treated to a lunch cooked by a local woman in Cappadocia, a simple but filling repast with bulgur pilav, beans and tomato salad. The inclusion of herbs and spices, in complex combinations, not only provides flavor but also brings chemical constituents that alleviate medical conditions. Following the unique opportunity of filling and rolling grape leaves to make dolma in a cooking class, I noted that the cinnamon, allspice and mint used as seasonings were all known to have infection-fighting effects. Using examples from Turkish cuisine, I plan to ask my students to explore the underlying biochemical and physiological mechanisms that restore and promote health.
The population of Istanbul continues to increase rapidly, posing challenges to sustainability. To discuss these issues, I met with Dr. Hatice Eser Okten, Professor of Environmental Engineering at Bahcesehir University. One aspect of concern is effective treatment of waste water to avoid pollution of the nearby Sea of Marmara. Dr. Okten’s students have developed filtering systems that can be used by small businesses to reduce contamination of the water supply. This example can be the basis of a case study to demonstrate possible solutions to the challenge of balancing a country’s rapid economic development and its associated use of resources with the need to preserve native ecosystems.
Mary Fonseca, Professor, English Department, Faculty Leader for Scholars Program
The trip to Turkey was an unforgettable, inspiring experience. I gained knowledge about, an understanding of, and an appreciation for a country about which I knew very little.
Prior to leaving on the trip I had read the suggested book about Turkey which informed me of many significant issues which are now uppermost among the concerns facing the country (the Kurdish question, the emerging democratic movement, the situation of women, membership in the EU). The lectures from Bahcesehir University focused on these many topics,and gave me a more in depth understanding of the difficulties and complexities that the country faces. There were no facile answers offered, but rather, the faculty came to us informed and very receptive to our questions. I can’t think of a better overview than this. I came away with an appreciation for Turkey that I can’t imagine I could have gained in any other way.
The many planned excursion and my own personal excursions further enhanced my appreciation and limited knowledge of Turkey. I visited mosques, saw examples of Islamic art, heard the calls to prayer and saw in the people the influences of Islam. I knew little of this religion, but got a change to see the many divergent ways people understood and practiced their faith. Turkey has been and is a country steeped in religion from the early monasteries to the omnipresent mosques of today, and I found it moving to witness the many examples religion in people’s lives. The trip was also a nice balance of seriousness and fun as we all got to experience the colors and cultural blends of Turkey food, shops and music.
Peggy Kravitz, Counseling Faculty, International Education Counseling
I went to Turkey hoping to better understand its dual nature, being both European and Asian. What I came away with was a greater understanding of Turkey’s deep history as a crossroads between Europe and Asia for conquerors, travelers and trade for many centuries. I learned that here is no typical Turk. A country with mostly Muslim residents, we heard the call to prayer five times a day, but saw women in spaghetti straps and see-through blouses as well as fully-covered women.
The lectures by faculty from Bahcesehir University were excellent. I think they enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed hearing from them as we asked many questions and were perhaps more attentive than typical college students. Significant elections had just concluded at the time of our arrival and it was fascinating to hear the various professors speak about where the country was headed politically.
A highlight of the trip was my professional development visit. Along with Dan Nannini, Transfer Center Director, I met with an agent who helps SMC recruit Turkish students. Our meeting with the agency staff was useful and informative.
Now back at SMC, I intend to continue attending Global Council meetings, participate in global citizenship projects and share with my counseling colleagues what I have learned about the Turkish educational system and the country of our students from Turkey.
Shanon Zusman, Faculty, Music Department
Istanbul is such an amazing city! When I had applied for the program, I knew it would be exciting to experience a new culture firsthand, but I didn’t expect how much I would fall in love with the city’s history, art, and people. I quickly learned what a complex country Turkey is, situated between Europe and Asia. As an outsider looking in, it was interesting to see how people were coming to terms with their relationship with the East and West. Will the government (and the people) try once more to join the European Union, or will they seek a closer alliance with their Middle Eastern neighbors? This question was on my mind quite a bit of the time, and I sensed on the minds of Istanbul’s population as well.
I was fortunate to soak up quite a bit of music while we were in Istanbul. Our trip coincided with a classical music festival, which took place in an historical 6th-century Christian church (which had not been converted to a mosque), as well as the city’s annual jazz festival, which took place in an amphitheater on the outskirts of town. It was quite powerful to see so many locals moved by the sounds of the West. I also had a chance to visit an oud maker’s studio (the oud is the original, Middle Eastern version of the European Renaissance lute) and listen to a master teacher try out a new instrument. At the conclusion of our first week, I was able to travel to a cymbal maker’s workshop and observe how they still make cymbals by hand, following a tradition that dates back to the 16th century. I even had an opportunity to hammer out one myself! On one unforgettable evening in the second week, I attended an informal concert at a türkü bar (similar to a coffee house performance) and fell for the melismatic singing with soulful saz accompaniment (similar to an acoustic guitar). Clearly, music is alive and well in Istanbul, and I hope to return someday and learn to play the oud.
As I return to SMC a more enlightened music professor, I know I will emphasize the interconnectedness of the West and the East. While we may often view the East as the “Other,” what I experienced in person proved how intertwined we in fact are. When you take the time to dig a little deeper, you end up seeing how rich another culture is, and I came away with a deep appreciation for the people I had once considered “exotic,” not to a mention an even more open mind, something I hope to pass on to my students as they become global citizens.
Teresa Garcia, Counselor and Scholars Program Leader, Counseling Department
Turkey was a country that was not on my radar in terms of possible destinations. When this opportunity came up I thought about it quite a bit prior to submitting the application. The fact that I had a Turkish student worker working in my office at the time helped me decide to submit the application. Once I was selected and started to tell people that I was going to Turkey there were many varied responses and some raised eyebrows.
Going on this trip was definitely one of the best experiences I have had. I feel so privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to experience the richness of Turkey with 14 amazing people from Santa Monica College. Together, my colleagues and I experienced a culture steeped in tradition, fed by a full and long history. The people were incredibly interesting and engaging and eager to share their part of the world with us. I am Catholic. Seeing Islamic lifestyle firsthand was incredible and unbelievable at times. There is an amazing beauty in the faith of the Muslims in Turkey and there are aspects that are simply hard to understand and grasp when coming from Western culture.
Currently, we are working on several initiatives to incorporate global citizenship into our Scholars repertoire. We are working on a new faculty homepage where we are creating a "global citizenship" topic under the curricular area for our Scholars faculty. We hope that in doing this we can engage our faculty in a discourse and ongoing discussions that can enhance their courses. The trip to Turkey has stimulated me and given me the motivation to make this homepage really work.
Estela Narrie, Articulation Officer, Counseling Department
Traveling with colleagues gave me the chance to collaborate with SMC faculty and staff that I never would have met on campus. I made professional bonds with other faculty members and we brainstormed on how best to serve our students and how to train my counseling colleagues about different departments on campus. The lectures we participated in were made even richer through thoughtful interactions of the presenters with the participants who viewed the issues through different discipline lenses.
In speaking with the students who were studying at the Beijing Center, I came to realize the great impact parental influence has on their children. I spoke to Chuck who wants to be a teacher, but his parents want him to get a government job because it is secure. One out of sixty-four Chinese work for the government. Chuck shared that it was important to get a good job because it is expected that the child will take care of his/her parents as they age (both financially and physically). There is strong pressure for students to test high enough to be able to be accepted into the best universities. The university “brand name” is of high importance in order to get a good job after graduation.
Lesson from China that I can share with my colleagues is an understanding of their educational system and how it differs from ours. This may help instructors and when dealing with our large Chinese student population. Chinese students are used to being lectured to and not questioning in class. We experienced the different teaching styles ourselves since we attended many lectures, most given by western instructors but two were given by Chinese professors. The lectures by western faculty were very interactive. If a discussion was side tracked due to interaction with the instructor and our group, the instructor easily went with the flow and stayed in the “off track” until all our questions were answered. The Chinese instructors had a difficult time with the interrupting questions we posed. They did not want to go off track and kept trying to get back to their lecture outline. When working with our students, it’s important to keep in mind learning differences.
Debbie Perret, Professor, Cosmetology Department
I teach in the Cosmetology Department where a number of students from diverse cultures and backgrounds come to study the art and science of Cosmetology. The amazing opportunity to participate in the 2014 Beijing Center of Professional Development Program provided me with a new perspective and understanding of international students and fulfilled a life- long desire to visit Beijing. By learning more about the cultures, traditions and values in China, I am now able to foster understanding and cultural consciousness in the students as they contribute to a multicultural society within the Beauty Industry. Beauty is global!
Ming Chun Lu, Professor, Business Department
My experience in China has helped me in two ways to enhance my teaching. First, the trip allowed me to have a better understanding of the background of my Chinese international students. I am now able to relate to some of the challenges as well as motivations in their life. Secondly, during my trip, I made appointments to visit the Google and Cisco branch offices in Beijing. By speaking to representatives in those firms, I was able to learn what employers are looking for in students who may wish to work abroad there in the future.& After my trip, I developed a short module in my Accounting 2 course where I share this information with my students. In addition, after my trip, I participated in the SMC Global Festival Day by helping out at a booth that shared information about China to our students.
Karen Legg, Counselor, Transfer Center, Counseling Department
I began my employment at SMC as a counselor in the International Student Program, and then eventually moved to the Transfer Center. I was fortunate enough to be selected to be part of the 2014 group sent to China to further our understanding of that complex country and its people.
I was particularly interested in the educational system, and what I might learn to inform my interactions with our Chinese students on campus. We had excellent speakers on the topic, as well as opportunities to visit with Chinese students. Another unexpected source of information was a tour guide, Tony, who has a young teen daughter who excels academically and wants very much to come to the US to attend a prestigious university. It was sobering to learn of the incredibly long hours spent studying and sacrifices made by students and their families in pursuit of their educational goals. In a country with high unemployment and still limited opportunities for many, a quality education may be the only realistic path to economic success. It helped me understand why our Chinese students are so focused on choosing a major and transfer institution that they perceive will guarantee that success.
A most gratifying part of the trip was the camaraderie developed with other members of the SMC campus community. The resulting relationships are already paying dividends: we arranged to have a travel companion from Cosmetology make a presentation to a Counseling Department meeting based a conversation we had on the trip. I have brainstormed with another faculty member on various topics related to student success. These friendships will always be a very important part of the experience for me, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this group.
Eleanor Strauss, Professor, Anthropology Department
I was very curious to have first hand knowledge of life in Beijing, today. The 2014 Beijing Professional Development Program was a wonderful opportunity for me to bring first hand anecdotal knowledge to my Cultural Anthropology unit on Globalization. Understanding China’s role in the world economy today is essential to an informed study of Globalization. In addition, many students from China are taking classes here at Santa Monica College. So on both an international and a very local level this opportunity has allowed me to make my class more relevant to our students’ experience both as consumers of international goods and as students from abroad.
It has been my pleasure to serve on the annual Research Symposium judging panel committee. Santa Monica College is a wonderful community and The Summer 2014 Beijing Professional Development has made my role in this community really come alive. I now have friends among my colleagues here. The trip has renewed my commitment to the SMC community, and I look forward to working on more projects together with my colleagues for years to come.
Valerie Vanderwest, Student Services Specialist, International Education Center
Being selected to represent SMC and the International Education Center in China in 2014 was both an honor and an adventure. The Beijing Center staff provided us with a China 101 course over our two weeks where we were exposed to the complexities of Chinese culture and politics, and where we attempted to grasp China’s long history. In the West, I think we often make generalizations about “China today” without having much understanding of it’s great past and intricate culture. This trip has challenged me to see our Chinese students not as one general population, but as a way to continue to learn about one of the world’s oldest and most complex societies. I hope our domestic students on campus are inspired by their Chinese peers to venture east to gain a non-western perspective on the world.
Thank you to the Global Citizenship initiative for this opportunity to grow personally and professionally, and thank you to my colleagues with whom I shared this adventure.
Evelyne Pedersen, Administrative Assistant, Enrollment Development
I felt honored to be chosen to participate in the 2014 Beijing program. The lectures we had at the Beijing center were inspiring and I could really notice the different teaching styles, as we experienced various classes from European, Chinese and American instructors. Although I only scratched the surface of everything there is to learn about the Chinese Economy, Educational system and History I felt strongly encouraged to go even deeper and decided to explore by myself the Imperial Academy in Beijing. The old Chinese educational system suddenly came alive in front of my eyes. I felt transported to the past, all the pictures, drawings, murals, statues and of course ancient books were the testimony of a living wisdom and knowledge that is still thriving in modern China. The contrast between the Old China and Modern China was immense and difficult to grasp in some instances. The engraved stone tablets, Confucius teachings, digital billboards, 3 D graphic designs, ancient temples and multi-level malls, and so many other things all cohabit to make China a truly amazing and engaging country. It is clear to me that the word “tablet” has a whole new meaning since I have been to China; it is evident that my I-pad will never outlive the engraved stone tablets of X’ian, which were made by the Chinese during the Han dynasty two thousand years ago, and I think it’s pretty cool. This is all about perspective really. The student population at SMC is very diverse and this trip has opened my eyes on our Chinese students. I now have a better understanding of their motivations and aspirations.
Traveling is a wonderful thing. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to travel with my coworkers; I enjoyed their company every day. As Shahrizad Shafian said “Receiving is good but giving is much better. Nevertheless, sharing is the best.” Thank you to my traveling buddy Emerita for putting up with me, and thank you to the rest of the group, I will cherish our shared memories for a long time.
Carl J. Sheaffer, Skilled Maintenance Worker, Facilities
The opportunity to spend two weeks in China has easily been the highlight of my experience as an employee of SMC. From this experience I was able to receive an otherwise inaccessible perspective of Chinese culture and develop a far more informed judgment of Chinese policies and political issues. Now, when something related to China comes up in the media, I try to listen more carefully and am able to do so with a more open and informed understanding.
Lisa Roper, Counselor, EOPS Program
The trip to China was truly an experience of a lifetime! My SMC colleagues and I were immersed in the Chinese history, culture, and educational system not only through the lectures at the Beijing Center but also through touring the city. The cities of Beijing and Xi’an became extensions of the classroom! I think the most striking thing for me was visiting a landmark like the Great Wall that was constructed over 2000 years ago! China has such a vast history, one of the students at the Beijing Center noted that it is much more difficult to study Chinese history than American History. Americans only have to learn about 400 years of history, in contrast, when the Chinese study the history of their civilization they can go back over 3000 years!
I gained the most insight on how to work with my students here at SMC from hearing the individual stories of the people I met there, particularly the Beijing Center faculty, staff, students as well as our tour guides. The session when we conversed with students at the Beijing Center was so enlightening and gave me a new perspective on how to relate not only to our Chinese students but also other International and immigrant students. I’ve shared with some Chinese students here at SMC that I visited their country and felt that they really appreciated the fact that I had been to their homeland and I got the sense that they were able to relate to me better. Also traveling in China and dining in restaurants while unaccompanied by a Mandarin speaker made me keenly aware of the struggles of our students trying to adapt and learn our culture.
Eve Adler, Professor, Nursing Program, Health Sciences/Academic Senate President
Participating in the Santa Monica College China 2014 group tour enriched my teaching by increasing the depth and breadth of my knowledge of the cultural history and health practices of the Chinese people. I have shared what I learned in two of the courses I teach: "Multicultural Health and Healing Practices", and "The Nursing of Children." In both courses we have discussed how traditional Chinese beliefs and customs influence current health practices among Chinese Americans.
Michael Klineman, Counselor/Faculty, International Education Counseling Center
As a result of my participation in the 2014 Beijing program, I got to experience China and its culture directly. I learned through lectures and visits to historical sights about this amazingly complex and large population. Being exposed to historical, educational, cultural, and political issues in this context was very interesting and helpful to me. In teaching Counseling 11, which is intended for international students, there is one class session devoted to ‘adjusting to a new culture’ and I now have an even greater appreciation and insight for what these students must go through to study and live in a country where the language and culture is many ways is vastly different than their own. In my counseling sessions, I am able to relate even better to many international students than in the past because I have more insight into their background and the differences they are experiencing here.
As a faculty member in the International Counseling Office, I interact with students from over a 100 different countries as part of my responsibilities. SMC’s largest group of international students comes from China and SMC currently has 1342 students from China. When I tell Chinese students I was in China for this program, they are very curious and interested to hear about my experience and seemed pleased that I visited their country. Overall, I believe that my experience in China has helped me to be more effective with our Chinese students as well as our international students overall.
Emerita Felix, Administrative Assistant, Academic Affairs
The opportunity to travel to Beijing, China 2014 for two weeks with faculty, staff and administrative colleagues was an experience of a lifetime. We bonded and enjoyed each other company as we explored the wonders of the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, Summer Place and Terra Cotta Warriors. We enjoyed fabulous food, took lots of pictures and shopping of course!
Studying at the Beijing Center was truly fascinating, I learned so much about China’s intricate culture, politics, and traditions. Following my return from Beijing I now have a better understanding of the Chinese cultural background. I want to give back to all our students especially to our large population of international students at Santa Monica College.
Katharine Muller, Dean, AET
Sharing an amazing experience with faculty, staff, and administrative colleagues, many of whom I didn’t know very well or at all, created a strong bond among us and expanded our collegial network. We increased our understanding of what each person and the areas they represent contribute to the college.
The lecturers and seminars were outstanding, providing both historical perspective and contemporary cultural context, for everything that we saw and experienced. This in turn has given me a renewed appreciation for the challenges faced by our international students in adapting to SMC and contributed to an increased commitment to ensuring cultural context is recognized as a factor in dialogue around student success.
Rosanne Rabito, Instructional Assistant, English Department
As an Instructional Assistant in the English Department, I have helped many students from China with their various writing assignments. The China trip was an amazing experience for me because I learned first hand about the educational system in China and was able to speak one on one with university students, giving me a much better insight into what motivates them and how better to address their specific needs. When these students come to Santa Monica College, they are so motivated to succeed and readily take advantage of the tutoring services available to them at the college. I feel I have a much better connection with them, not only as individuals, but also with their educational goals.
The staff at the Beijing Center were very professional and did a magnificent job of making the trip an incredibly amazing experience. I'm grateful to have been offered to opportunity to participate in the Global Citizenship Program.
The 2013 program participants put together a video of their time abroad.
Gregory Brookins, Accounting Department Faculty
This trip was definitely life changing. It provided me perspective in addressing the Chinese student population in our courses. There are nuances in Chinese culture and business that I am now able to apply in my courses because I experienced them first hand rather than just reading about them. This is particularly helpful because about 10% of my students come from mainland China, Taiwan or Hong Kong.
I am an Accounting instructor. For my Accounting 2 classes, we teach a unit on foreign currency transactions that I can now apply to the Chinese currency – the yuan. I was also able to see a capitalistic financial system thriving in a country whose political ideology is communistic. I have been able to share these observations with others.
Being a “world” away from home, nearly everything was different - the language, culture, interactions, philosophy - even the world view from the map in our class.
This trip caused me to re-evaluate the many things which came from my westernized perspective.
Gerard Burkhart, Adjunct Professor, Corsair News Photo Advisor
As a longtime China observer the Faculty Development trip to China was an opportunity to test preconceptions. The in-country course work and direct observation has resulted in a deeper understanding of the people, culture and economy of this ancient country’s efforts to emerge as a world superpower.
That knowledge was distilled in my individual faculty project interviewing National Public Radio correspondent Anthony Kuhn. The course work provided insight but more questions were formed than answered. By the time I met with Kuhn I had some intelligent questions to ask him. Kuhn, having spent his career reporting on China, connected the dots and wove all the disparate elements into a cohesive mosaic.
The general information we determined applied directly to Santa Monica College was used in a tip sheet for instructors for helping Chinese students integrate into the college environment successfully.
Using that tip sheet and new found perceptions of China in my photojournalism classes has allowed for encouragement of student visual journalists to explore international student issues in an informed way.
Carol V. Davis, English Department Faculty
There is a big difference between knowing something on an intellectual level and absorbing it on a deeper more empathic level. This is one of the biggest lessons I took away from the China trip. China is a country of vast differences: economic, cultural, geographic, ethnic, religious and educational. Seeing these differences first-hand taught me to be more sensitive to the array of Chinese students we have at SMC.
I have often used contemporary Chinese fiction in my English classes, but now I can put this work in a greater cultural and historical context. I am better able to engage Chinese students on a deeper level when discussing the literature, to share my experiences in China and to better ask for their reaction to what we read. Among the many things I learned on the trip that was useful, was about Chinese secondary education, particularly in Beijing in lectures we attended. I now have a better understanding of the background of the Chinese students, the way academic subjects are taught, the style of learning and class participation. I am more careful now to speak more slowly, to use the board more and to repeat necessary information. I am paying more attention to pedagogical methods and tools to help the Chinese students – all other international students – to engage with texts, synthesize material and join in discussion. It was enormously helpful to hear from our lecturers in Beijing what their expectations are of Chinese students who have studied in the U.S. and return to China.
Being confronted by a language whose alphabet I did not know was a humbling experience. I returned to the U.S. with a better appreciation of the frustration our Chinese students often experience in trying to communicate with the wide variety of people and accents which they encounter at SMC and in Los Angeles. I came back with the knowledge necessary to be a better instructor and to help our international students not just to learn and adjust to life in a very different environment, but to thrive in it.
Peggy Kravitz, Counseling Faculty, International Education Counseling Center
My experience in China made me more keenly aware of the challenges of navigating in a world where the customs, language and rules are different. Since returning, I have endeavored to relate to our international students with greater sensitivity. Especially in the case of our Chinese students, I have worked to listen more carefully and be more patient while at the same time be direct when appropriate. When our new students arrived for fall, winter and spring, I tried to put myself in their place and remember what it was like to be in a new place where everything was foreign. I have found that sometimes a student struggling to put their words together will relax just by my smiling and saying: “Take your time.”
Caroline Krockel, Student Services Specialist, International Education Center
Even before this experience, I could identify some of the differences between our international students and some issues that our Chinese students in particular struggle with. This intensive cultural program allowed me to understand why our students struggle with certain issues and see how it directly relates to cultural differences and the country’s history! It was amazing to be able to personally make these observations and connections and use the new understanding to help students more effectively.
Joanne Laurance, Administrative Assistant, English Department
From Ming to Mao to Wow! I learned so much in China. From the perspective of a college employee I gained a greater understanding of how to best serve the students who visit the English Department. Attending lectures reminded me what it was like to be a student. Speaking to students and listening to our tour guides provided a deeper, more personal, and empathetic insight when they shared their dreams, hopes, and struggles. Living in Beijing and traveling outside the city to visit the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Warriors museum was an extraordinary privilege. I am still processing the stunning images of China. Modern urban architecture nestled next to ancient temples. Traffic just like the 405. People on cell phones dressed in trendy clothing walking next to someone sweeping a sidewalk with a broom made of twigs. Navigating city streets where lane markings and traffic signals seemed to serve more as suggestions that many pedestrians and drivers ignored rather than obeyed. I contemplated from a mother’s point of view that parents everywhere want to provide the best possible opportunities in life for their children. When one puts aside the boundaries created by the differences in culture, political ideology, religion, social status, standards of living, and economic disparity, one realizes that we are all in this together. We are all global citizens, and although it may seem that our lives are vastly different in so many ways, I believe that most humans want to have lives of purpose—living as fully realized members of their communities, families, and countries. As global citizens, we can use the tools of compassion, kindness, respect, tolerance and the possession of an open mind to raise our awareness of our world in a most positive and productive way. Tiny baby steps to be sure but achievable steps.
Saul Rubin, Media Studies Faculty
One of greatest lessons that the trip to China taught me was to always appreciate how challenging it is to be a foreign student. And I don’t just mean challenging in the broad cultural sense, but also on a day-to-day practical level, as in learning to get around with foreign transportation, and even walking into a restaurant and figuring out how to order a meal. You know, the things we take for granted when living in Los Angeles.
So it’s taught me to be more patient with students, and that means all students. Foreign students for sure, but even local people who may be traveling great distances here in the Los Angeles area just to get to our campus, and who may be entering a college environment that is as foreign to them as a trip abroad.
While in China I met with two journalists, Anthony Kuhn of National Public Radio, and John Lydon of the China Daily in Beijing. I have integrated information from these meetings into journalism curriculum when talking about duties and responsibilities of foreign correspondents.
While in China I constantly used my hand-held digital video and still cameras and recorded lots of pictures and video. When I returned I created six videos that cover different aspects of the Santa Monica College tour, including one video (posted at the top of this page) that captures the entire trip for our group.
Rachelle Thomas-Green, Administrative Assistant, EOPS
Educational Enrichment + Cultural Engagement = Life-changing Experience. From the classroom to the courtyards of the historic temples, I enjoyed connecting with people young and old through SMC’s 2013 Global Citizenship program. My favorite part of the trip was sharing a heartfelt laugh and a joyful embrace from an 80 year old Chinese man and his grandson’s on the steps of the Great Wall. In spite of my pitiful attempt to speak Mandarin, I was reminded that the true driving force behind each connection we make on campus or abroad is the indomitable human spirit.
Jeanne Laurie, Administrative Assistant, Modern Languages and Cultures Department
What I liked best was learning. Learning about my fellow travelers and learning from the wonderful professors at The Beijing Center. After four years at SMC, I had only met two of the people in the group and only in passing. During the trip I got to know people from different areas of the campus. I learned about them and what they do. I feel so much more connected to SMC, and much happier to be here. The quality of the professors at The Beijing Center was incredible. People who had been there 30 years and knew the real story in every aspect. Beijing is a really great city to see and visit, but I wouldn’t have maintained the continued interest in China and it’s roll on the Global stage if I had only seen the surface as a tourist. It was an fabulous experience. I am very grateful to SMC and International for the opportunity.
Sandi Burnett, Faculty Specialist, Center for Students with Disabilities
As a Faculty Specialist with the Center for Students with Disabilities the China experience gave me a greater understanding of our Chinese students coming in contact with the diverse multicultural environment at SMC. Their contact with the diverse ethnicity and age span at SMC is likely novel but somewhat expected by the Chinese students; whereas their contact with students who are significantly disabled is most likely a completely unparalleled novelty. For 30 years our domestic students have witnessed the integration of disabled students in classrooms. The China experience has motivated me to be more engaged with the Global Citizenship initiatives with an eye toward greater cross cultural understanding. We have much to learn from each other.
Janet Robinson, Counselor, Health Sciences Department
My trip to China with SMC was my first time traveling outside of North America. Now, I view the world as a classroom and I have traveled to South Africa, Belize and Guatemala on SMC-related trips with other faculty, staff and students. I teach a college success seminar (Counseling 20) and one of the assignments is a ‘Lifeline’ presentation where students share life changing events and future goals via PowerPoint. For my Lifeline, I share pictures and stories from my travels and I stress the importance of becoming a global citizen through exposure to other countries and cultures. In their presentations, many students also share travel experiences or goals of exploring different parts of the globe. I always encourage them to make every effort to see the world, with SMC or at a 4-year school once they transfer. It’s never too late!
Aned Muniz, Modern Languages and Cultures Faculty Member
As expected, I have a much greater awareness about the cultural background of Chinese students and I am also better equipped to help Asian students study European languages more efficiently. I am able to draw linguistic comparisons not limited to Indo-European languages. I am also better able to understand and appreciate the humane qualities of this important demographic group.
During our stay in China I discussed a short film idea with my colleagues and was pleasantly surprised by their encouraging response and support. Following my return, I applied for a SMC global citizenship mini-grant, which allowed me the honor of collaborating with our wonderful Film Studies department and its students. This is a first cut (it needs further editing) of the resulting video: vimeo.com (password: modern_language)
On a personal note, the Fall following my return from Beijing my son entered a kindergarten Mandarin Chinese immersion program (he already knew 3.5 languages but no one in his family knows Mandarin) at Broadway Elementary, so the learning continues as I try to help him with homework and everything else related to this millenary culture.
Grace Smith, Administrative Assistant-III, Academic Affairs
Having always been fascinated with China, its culture and history, there was no better way for it to come alive than the fun and information-packed two weeks we had. Experiencing China first-hand affirmed the importance and sheer joy of being global citizens and I came back with an enhanced understanding of the country, its ancient history and rising global status and the many international students we serve here at SMC.
Helen LeDonne, Cosmetology Educator
Experiencing the trip to China and its culture has allowed me to bring back valuable information to the students of the cosmetology department at SMC. Sharing this information of style, procedures, and communication of China’s local salons has broadened the vision of our students and allows them to have a greater respect and value of our Chinese culture on and off campus. Adding this information to the Salon Business class has contributed a wealth of understanding to use as the student achieves the requirements of the California license. I continue to believe that each and every culture is unique and offers a wealth of knowledge from which we can all benefit. It is true that Beauty transcends into any language.
Salvador Carrasco, Film Production
I met in Beijing with Christine Choy, an Oscar-nominated Chinese filmmaker, who paved the way for us to have many incredibly productive meetings. Here are some of the tangible results and consequences of our trip:
- Christine Choy (Chinese name: Cui Ming Huei) herself came to SMC on November 15, 2012, as part of our "An Evening with a Distinguished Filmmaker" series and as the closing event of the Global Citizenship's International Week. We showed excerpts from her latest film, which deals with the hardships that immigrant workers from Shanghai experience in Beijing, and I also did a Q&A with her in HSS 165.
- Christine also visited the editing class of Prof. Walt Louie (Entertainment Technology) to have an informal conversation with his students.
We also discussed creating an active "bridge" between SMC's film program and NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where Christine not only teaches but has also been the head of the graduate program. (She's the one who brought world-famous directors Ang Lee and Spike Lee to teach at NYU.)
- In fact, we already had our first successful transfer case in terms of creating that "bridge": SMC student Riu Hu, who did our 3-semester filmmaking sequence at SMC (Film 31, 32, and 33) was recently accepted into NYU's film program, where he started classes in the fall of 2012, including a directing seminar with Christine, who has offered to take him under her wing as a mentor (like she did with me back in 1991!)
- I also met with a Chinese film director, Qian Zhao, who works for China's largest official State-owned television company, CCTV, and we agreed then and there to do a co-production between CCTV and SMC. This film was already shot in Los Angeles during the week of July 9, 2012. In a nutshell, it's a documentary about the creation of a "Wudang (sacred mountain) Theme Park," a multimillion-dollar project involving many prominent Chinese people living in LA and even Mayor Villaraigosa himself. I put Qian in touch with our President, Dr. Tsang, and arranged for SMC film students to work (and get paid) to do the actual shoot as the principal cinematography team, which included a Tai-chi class at SMC, and provided logistical support in exchange of SMC receiving an official co-producing credit in the film.
- We also had a very productive meeting at the University of Communications (CUC), where they invited the Chair of our Dept., Dr. Nancy Grass Hemmert, to coordinate and present original work at a symposium on global communication.
- We gave an oral and video presentation to a group of students about SMC in general and our Film Program in particular at a Beijing high school that was coordinated by Teresita Rodriguez and Patricia Ramos. It was very successful and some students expressed their interest in coming to study with us at SMC.
- And last but not least, I had a great meeting at the Beijing Film Academy with the renowned filmmaker and Dean of International Students, Zhong Defong, in which we discussed many possible collaborations between SMC and BFA. Among others, the making of a joint short film to be shot in China (perhaps as an SMC study-abroad program) in 2014 or 2015 whereby half the crew would be SMC students and the other half BFA students. We would develop this project as part of our screenwriting classes (Film 21). We also discussed the possibility of BFA sending some of their students to train to SMC and learn about Hollywood filmmaking practices, and lastly, they invited me to screen/do a Q&A of my film, "The Other Conquest," at some point in 2014 for both graduate and undergraduate students. N.B. The model we're trying to establish with the Beijing Film Academy is extremely important because we're convinced that such is the future of filmmaking: International collaborations geared towards making projects that reflect a spirit of true global citizenship.
Mary Colavito, Life Science Faculty Member
The Summer 2012 Beijing Center Professional Development Program provided a wealth of material that has informed my teaching. For Fundamentals of Biology (Biology 3), I developed a module that addresses the challenge of balancing China’s rapid economic development and its associated use of resources with the need to preserve native ecosystems. The activity is framed in a debate-type format, called a controversy exercise, where students who have researched opposite points of view meet to arrive at a consensus position. The controversy will center on land use in Mongolia, where the nomadic life of the native people is threatened by privatization of grasslands and extensive construction to support tourism. For Cell Biology and Evolution (Biology 21), I formulated a case study for kanglaite, an anti-cancer drug derived from a plant called Job’s Tears. The plant is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fluid retention and digestive disorders. In patients with advanced cancer, kanglaite was shown to lessen symptoms such as pain and anorexia and also to reduce tumor size. The case study focuses on the effects of kanglaite at the cellular level, where it interferes with the signaling of a receptor located in the membrane of cancer cells. By blocking this first step in a cascade of interactions, kanglaite insures that the cancer cells can no longer accumulate proteins essential for their survival. Since many Biology 21 students plan careers in health care, this case study provides a relevant and interesting connection between concepts related to cell communication and an understanding of the efficacy of traditional herbal treatments.
Nancy Grass Hemmert, Chair, Communication & Media Studies Department
My experience studying in China has enhanced my teaching in many ways. Most obviously, in teaching my Intercultural Communication course, I have been able to incorporate many specific, real-life examples of my own intercultural communication competence in meeting and talking to and working with people from China. I was able to experience first-hand examples of almost all the theories that we discuss and teach, from expectancy violation to collectivism to high context communication to culture shock and everything in between. Furthermore and probably more significantly, I have been able to translate my learning into being more empathetic and effective with my Chinese students. From simply sharing knowledge of their home country to having some experience practicing my intercultural competence as it relates to Chinese culture, my Chinese students feel that I am an understanding ally for them both in and out of the classroom.
Jose Cue, Counselor
Given the number of international students at SMC, and in particular from China, I found the trip to China to be very enriching and insightful. China is a complex nation. It is the world’s second largest economy and has the largest population on the planet. It is wrestling with many complicated issues – growing income inequality, rural versus urban issues, an aging population and the rise of social protests. Educationally, China has made great progress since the revolution in 1949 when 80% of the population was illiterate. Today, Chinese youth have a 99% literacy rate. Since 1998, China has invested in a massive expansion of education, nearly tripling the share of GDP devoted to it. Still, The Chinese tend to favor the American education system. New York Time columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about this “paradox: Chinese themselves are far less impressed by their school system. Almost every time I try to interview a Chinese about the system here, I hear grousing rather than praise. Many Chinese complain scathingly that their system kills independent thought and creativity, and they envy the American system for nurturing self-reliance — and for trying to make learning exciting and not just a chore.”[The New York Times, “China’s Winning Schools?” Jan. 15, 2011]. As a counselor, my China experience helps me better understand our Chinese students - their goals, their concerns and anxieties about being far away from home and the need to succeed. I have also used my lessons learned from China when participating in various committees - Global Council and Career Technical Education.
Eleni Hioureas, English Faculty Member
After the Beijing Center Summer Professional Development Program, I was inspired to incorporate into my lesson plans materials related to China and to discuss themes related to racial stereotypes, cultural misperceptions, gender roles, and the dehumanization of people through cultural imperialism. To cover these themes, in my composition courses, I now assign a play called M Butterfly, written by David Henry Hwang, which takes place during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Vietnam War.
As we discuss the play, I use my first-hand experiences and knowledge of China that I gained during the SMC program to add a level of depth to the discussion that I would not have otherwise been able to provide. I play the video about our China experience that Salvador Carrasco created to show the students the highlights from Beijing, and I use the information from the lectures we attended in China and some of my personal experiences to give my students a clearer picture of the setting and cultural background of the book.
In addition to having created lesson plans based on the information from the program, the Beijing Program helped me become more empathetic to international students and the struggles they face in adapting to a new culture and cultural norms when they move to Los Angeles and in learning how to communicate more effectively in a foreign language. The program has also helped me become empathetic to students in general, and especially to the basic skills students that I work with, because they are also learning how to communicate in a language that they are not used to – academic language – and learning to adapt to the social and cultural norms of higher education.
Even though many of the basic skills students speak English as their primary language, they have difficulty articulating their thoughts clearly and in an organized manner; similarly, I experienced many obstacles in trying to communicate effectively with the Chinese natives. Having faced the challenge of attempting cross-cultural communication in a foreign language, I now incorporate more activities to help students structure their ideas, and I also try to communicate important concepts through an even greater variety of teaching methods.