CHINA: First Impressions

Made it to China and thrilled to be in Tiananmen Square.

Debbie Wetherhead makes it to China and is thrilled to be in Tiananmen Square.

The KSU M.A. in Integrated Global Communication program enables grad students to participate in a Summer Engagement Abroad Module (SEAM). Given my interest in Asia and understanding of China’s powerful economic and political role in our global society (Petras, 2015), I’m thrilled to have landed (after 18+ hours in the air) in this amazing country.

State Of Mind

Having recently completed a Communication for Multinational Corporations class and hearing Dr. Gao’s perspectives about her home country, I’m prepared to be flexible, open-minded, and approach this trip as an adventure. I’m eager to experience Chinese culture and communication styles in order to bring my classroom learnings to life.

Three-Week Agenda

It feels like this journey started months ago with extensive research and planning. Since I elected to enroll in the SEAM Directed Study course, instead of a study tour or internship, I took on the role of program director and travel agent. These activities were learning experiences in many ways.

15th International Conference to be held July 15-17, 2015 in Hong Kong.

15th International Conference to be held July 15-17, 2015 in Hong Kong.

My general destination and timing are anchored by my plan to present research findings (that I worked on for four months) at the Fifteenth International Conference on Diversity in Organizations, Communities, and Nations to be held at the University of Hong Kong. Once that opportunity was organized, my challenge was to figure out how to visit China on my own for about two weeks prior to the academic event.

After exploring a few options that proved unobtainable – including guest lecturing at Chinese universities during the month of July – and literally days of online research, with approval from my program director, Dr. Mayo, I booked myself on a small historical/cultural tour because I was interested in gaining insights into the Chinese population’s identity and solo travel seemed overwhelming in this vast communist country.

My 23-day itinerary includes a two-week organized tour of multiple locations primarily on the east side of the Chinese mainland and a self-directed experience in Hong Kong for a week. I expect to observe a wide range of lifestyles, commerce, and communication in both urban and rural settings. My adrenaline is pumping as I anticipate exploring:

  • Beijing: China’s political and cultural center
  • Xian: The country’s ancient capital and home to the Terracotta Army
  • Guilin: A rural area recognized for its picturesque landscape
  • Longsheng: An agricultural area with unique Dragon Backbone Terrace rice fields
  • Suzhou: A city famous for its classical gardens, canals, and silk production
  • Tongli: A traditional water town built up during the Ming and Qing dynasties
  • Shanghai: The country’s cosmopolitan financial center
  • Hong Kong: A densely populated international port and financial center

First Stop: Beijing

forbidden city pano

The first stop on my journey is Beijing, a vibrant capital city with masses of 11.5 million people, as well as unanticipated endless stretches of highways and outcroppings of high-rise housing developments. On day one of my tour I noted great dichotomy between contemporary and old-world traditions and architectural structures.

more templeThis was evident comparing Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world with capacity to hold a million visitors, and the stately historical buildings and museums that reinforced the power of the country’s communist government, to the stunning 9,999-room Forbidden City compound from which 24 emperors ruled for five centuries, to the Hutong neighborhood that I traveled through via rickshaw to enjoy lunch with a local family in their traditional courtyard-style home (Travel China Guide, 2015) to the expansive city’s modern buildings.

If today was any indication, my next few weeks are going to be jam-packed and eye-opening. Armed with only a few Chinese vocabulary words (thanks to You Tube videos), my country analysis research, and some guide book readings, I’m sure to learn a great deal. Check back for observations I’ll share in future blogs as I try to assimilate into a society with profoundly different cultural, communication, and political structures than the U.S.temple


Petras, J. (2015). China: Rise, fall and re-emergence as a global power. Global Research. Retrieved from

Travel China Guide. (2015). Beijing Hutong. Retrieved from

Travel China Guide. (2015). Tiananmen Square. Retrieved from

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