An Unforgettable Summer with GIB 2012


The start of every semester is always the busiest and the most chaotic. But an email I received one morning took me back to the good summer days I spent together with GIB 2012.

“I am back in Switzerland since 3 weeks now. The time I had in Gansu this summer is kept in a very special place in my heart: I had a truly amazing time, and when I look at the pictures, I become aware of the unique opportunity it was and the personal enrichment the program brought me, both in term of academic knowledge and beautiful new-formed friendships….”

Pauline was one of our seven participants of Global Internship Base (GIB) 2012, the school’s summer program. In my point of view, it’s an admirable action for foreigners to join this very program, not only in that it contains rigid classroom schedule and vigorous field study, but in the fact that the program distinguishes itself from other similar summer programs in China by stripping its participants the comfort big cities like Beijing or Shanghai has to offer. The presumption of this program is that you’re a curious and hard-working student, not a tourist. What’s more, you are ready to brave inconveniences to sharpen your research skills and familiarize yourself with the real picture of modern-day rural China.

In Week One, students are kept busy with classroom lectures (which feature the contemporary development of Chinese economy, social transition, politics, migration, education, inequalities, etc.) and field visits to grassroots NGOs and communities where they’ll learn about inspirations and life struggles of NGO workers and local residents. 

An equally rigorous but more fun part of the program starts in Week Two. Together with hundreds of migrant workers, farmers, and brave travelers, participants hop on a train to Tianshui, a city deep in the heart of China in the northwestern Gansu Province. Tianshui has been inhabited since Neolithic time. It then became a main stopping point on the ancient Silk Road before it has become a major orchardof the region, known for its “Floral Cow” apples, cherries and peaches.

There, SSDPP professors lead the team to rural communities and help the participants finalize their research interests. This summer, Chris and Stephanie from the U.S. delved into the subject of county-level healthcare policies. Kristen (U.S.) and Trymore (Zimbabwe) developed their project on agricultural and economic situation analysis of the Wan Zi village. Alicja (Poland),Pauline (Switzerland) and Joao (Brazil) jointly investigated on rural Chinese women’s socioeconomic status in an ethnically mixed rural community. Each of the three groups then teamed up with students from the Tianshui Normal College for field research, writing project reports and presenting research findings.

While the process of pushing forward research plans within a limited time frame can be tough if not painful, it’s fair to say that everyone leaves Beijing with a rare experience and a larger, at the same time clearer, picture of the mysterious Middle Kingdom than others. Among them, Christopher Prince and Stephanie Fewsmith. 

"It was a fantastic program and an amazing experience. Through most of my college career I have been focused on studying and researching the PRC. Still the GIB program was absolutely eye opening. The opportunity to live and conduct research in rural China was amazing. It has certainly enriched and deepened my understanding of China and the challenges the country faces."
--Chris Prince
"It is very rare for foreigners to get a chance to see rural China the way we did through GIB. Having the opportunity to do research on development in a small village was beneficial for me personally and inspired me to continue my education and career on this path. The freedom to choose a project that pertained to my interests made the experience particularly fascinating and memorable."

--Stephanie Fewsmith

I remember hearing Prof.Joseph Fewsmith of Boston University (an expert who knows China inside out) so said when I had the chance to have dinner with him just a week after the GIB 2012 program,“This is a very different program. It can be hard to coordinate with local government officials though. If succeed, it can be a very unique chance for students (who specializes in development) to get to know China. You know, you get to see not only the big cities, but the whole of China.”

While we’re working to make this program an even better experience for those who will join in the future, I’ll freeze these moments with GIB 2012 in the dearest part of my heart: the memory that we traveled to the slum area in Beijing to visit a grassroots NGO. People there shared with us their ambitions to build better schools for children of migrant workers and treated us with sweet local watermelons; the time we spent hunting for the legendary “Rou Jia Mo”(a kind of Chinese hamburger with the bread chewy and the meatinside, either beef or pork, tastes soft, tender and has a fragrant smell) along the Muslin streets in the ancient capital of Xi’an; or simply the snapshot we took posing as “King Kongs” before a towering Buddhist statue in the Maijishan Grotto Scenic Area in Tianshui.

I wish all my new friends from GIB 2012 do well in their respective lives and studies. They are:
Our beautiful Alicja Bachulska
Our forever “Tin Tin” Christopher Prince,
Our forever “Brazilian Mr. Charming” João Vitor Osborne,
Our “Solider” Kristen Pancio who is always so admirably independent and brave,
Our sweet Pauline Bari who speaks Chinese better than I do,
The elegant and independent intellectual Stephanie Fewsmith,
And our very own basketball star “O’Neal”, Trymore Maganga.

I won’t forget, of course, the two cute Mexican lads who shared a beautiful week in Beijing with the GIB 2012 team, Francisco Javier and Jacob Levin.

I’m looking forward to share an even more memorable summer with people in 2013, wherever you are.

See you in Beijing in July 2013!

             (The article is written by Yang Tingting, Program Coordinator of the Global Internship Base 2012.)

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