By Judy Williams
Director of Media Relations
Ten students from Hendrix are forging new territory while on a study tour this summer in East Asia.This is the first time Hendrix has sponsored a student tour to East Asia, and it is the first time American students have studied at Heilongjiang University in Harbin, an industrial city that has historical ties to former Eastern Bloc nations.
The entourage left Little Rock July 3 for a 15-day tour known as "The China Odyssey." Hendrix Professor Jay McDaniel is leading the tour, which begins in Beijing. For their first four days, students will tour the Great Wall and visit the Forbidden City, a Taoist temple and a Buddhist monastery. They will also meet with students from Beijing Normal University, which is a teaching college.
From Beijing, they will take an overnight train ride to Harbin where they will stay in apartments provided by Heilongjiang University. Hendrix and Chinese students will participate in a four-day morning course, "Process Thought and Chinese Thought in an Age of Globalization," which Dr. McDaniel will teach at the university. In class, students will study and discuss process thought, higher education and globalization. Dr. McDaniel expects 200 Chinese students to participate in the class, which will use four common texts, each of which is in English and Chinese.
During the rest of their 10-day stay in Harbin, students will visit with religious and cultural leaders, learn about sports and music in China, meet with local entrepreneurs, and take a two-day tour of Inner Mongolia. Their Harbin hosts will be Professor Li, a faculty member at Heilongjian and editor of the well-known journal Qui Shi (Seeking Truth), and Guo Sheng Tie, one of Li's assistants.
The trip is sponsored by the Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy and the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Hendrix.
Student participants include three Arkansans, Zach Beal of Conway, Emily Morgan of Cabot, and Josh Wilson of El Dorado; four Texans, Mitchell Boone of Rockwall, Ingrid Geisler of Dallas, Katie Howard of Denton and Laura McKain of Pleasanton; Robin Bischol of Bloomfield, Mo.; Dana DeMilt of Bartlett, Tenn.; and Elise Stangle of Athens, Ga.
The China Odyssey is the brainchild of McDaniel, who has taught world religions for the past 20 years at Hendrix and is a process theologian. Last year, he was invited to Harbin to participate in a conference on Process Thought and Cultural Thought in China. McDaniel gave a public lecture on ecology and process thought and met the president of the Heilongjan University. The seed was planted for the summer tour.
The China Odyssey title refers to the fact that China, the oldest living civilization, is on a journey or odyssey into the future, which now involves an intensive dialogue with the West. It also refers to the journey the students are taking.
McDaniel said the study tour is an important experience for Hendrix students because China is becoming a key player in world history and in world economy.
"Increasingly we realize that China, the world's oldest and most enduring civilization, is ascending to the position of a world power. The 21st century will be, in many ways, the China century," he said. "I am taking students from Hendrix to see the future."
Still, the primary purpose for the trip involves friendships, the professor said. "Our aim is to make friends and meet people," he said. "Most importantly, we want to take students to meet other students, to see how they think, and to return with possibilities for continued interchange vis-Ãƒ -vis discussions that transpire with help from the Internet. Meanwhile, each student also has much to learn in terms of personal interests."
Ingrid Geisler, a Hendrix biology major who plans to become a veterinarian, said she hopes to explore traditional Chinese medicine while on the trip, along with learning about the culture and religion.
"I am particularly interested in Taoism and Taoist healing," she said. "Continuing my study of the Chinese language will also be an important part of being in China."
Hendrix senior Emily Morgan said she is interested in learning about what it's like to be a college student in China and how that is different from America. "And I would love to visit a zoo!" she said.
Hendrix students have created a Web site for The China Odyssey www.chinaodyssey.org with more details about the tour, including a full course description, a profile of each student, a page published in Chinese for Chinese-speaking friends in China and other parts of the world and a forum for discussion.