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Delegation visits UWRF 'Experience China' program site

A delegation from Wisconsin traveled to Hangzhou, China to visit the Zhejiang International Studies University. Pictured from left Richard Moran, UW-Superior; Tom Pleger, UW-Baraboo/Sauk Couny; Xiaohong Zhang, UW-Whitewhater; Dean Brad Caskey, UWRF; Wanita Caskey; Tim Urbonya Director of Continuing Education and Outreach Services University of Wisconsin Colleges; Anne Hamilton, UW-Whitewater; Brent Greene, UWRF; Lissa Schneider-Rebozo UWRF; Meg Learman, UWRF and Dean Larry Solberg, UWRF.1 / 2
While in China, UWRF Dean Brad Caskey and wife Wanita visited the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, China.2 / 2

Beginning in Fall 2012, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls will serve as the lead institution for an 'Experience China' semester study abroad academic program open to students throughout the University of Wisconsin - System and beyond.

The program is based on the UWRF led 'Wisconsin in Scotland' program in which a group of students resides as an international learning community, in a manor house in Dalkeith, Scotland. The students take courses taught by faculty from UWRF, other participating universities, and the University of Edinburgh.

Students in the 'Experience China' program will be housed at a hotel on the campus of Zhejiang International Studies University (ZISU) in Hangzhou, China.

They will take several courses with a Chinese focus and will also receive training in Mandarin Language.

Classes will be taught by UWRF, ZISU faculty and faculty from other participating UW institutions. Students will also have the chance to socialize with, and offer their English-speaking expertise to, ZISU students who are eager to interact with native-English speakers.

In February, a delegation representing UWRF, UW-Superior, UW-Baraboo/Sauk County, the UW-Colleges, and UW-Whitewater traveled to China to visit the 'Experience China' site, to finalize details of the program with representatives of ZISU.

Those representing UWRF include Dr. Brad Caskey, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, his wife Wanita Caskey, who personally funded her own way, Dr. Larry Solberg, Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, Brent Greene, International Education Programs, Megan Learman, Education Abroad Advisor, and Dr. Lissa Schneider-Rebozo, Associate Professor of English, who is scheduled to teach in the program, spring 2012-13.

After a 16-hour flight from Minneapolis, which came within 100 miles of the North Pole, delegates arrived in Shanghai, China.

One of the most populous cities in the world, with over 23 million residents, the city is a mix of old and new; wealth and poverty.

Just blocks from the up-scale Nanjing Road shopping area, you will find street vendors selling their wares from unroofed wooden shacks.

While in Shanghai, the Caskeys visited the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Wanita took the internal elevator to the third observation "pearl" for a view of the city from 1148 feet.

The Caskeys, Schneider-Rebozo and Learman visited the Fish and Flower Market that was teaming with crickets, poodles, turtles, goldfish, cats, birds and flowers, and the Yuyuan Garden which was initially constructed in the 1500s.

With the vast population, Shanghai suffers from a lot of traffic congestion, with four-lane streets cohabited by a mass volume of automobiles, city buses, small electric mopeds and bicycles.

Students will need to learn to take great care in crossing the streets as the majority of the traffic does not adhere to the stoplights but also simultaneously travels in opposing directions on the same side of the road. Brad noted that, "...a safe crossing appears to require a minimum of three sets of eyes, one looking left, one looking right and a third looking straight ahead to find a path to the other side through the throng of people."

Subway travel is a very clean, efficient, and cheap way to get around. During rush hour, however, one must abandon the concept of personal space, stand one's ground, and press into the mob of humanity or risk entering a car only to be pushed back out onto the platform when the riders surge toward the door.

To get to ZISU the group took a 45-minute trip on a bullet train to Hangzhou.

With just over eight million residents, Hanzhou features boulevards lined with sycamore trees and West Lake which has inspired artists and poets for centuries.

Students in the 'Experience China' program will have ample opportunity to see West lake, the wetland park and miles of tea fields that all lie within a cab or bus ride from the campus hotel.

The campus hotel rooms in which the 'Experience China' students will reside consist of two beds and a bathroom. They are also heated, which is somewhat unusual as most of the public buildings in this region of China are neither heated nor cooled.

Hallways and the cafeteria in the hotel, and all buildings on the small campus, are not temperature regulated so students will need to dress appropriately.

Food will also be an adventure for students in the Experience China program. Rather than a "typical" American breakfast, the cafeteria breakfast options include items like dumplings stuffed with pork or squash, fried noodles, and only the use of chopsticks.

During the three days on campus, the delegation was treated to numerous traditional formal lunches and dinners. Each of these "food events" was similar in nature -- a round table with a glass Lazy Susan containing a minimum of six cold appetizers followed by ten to fifteen hot entrees, soup and tea.

Some items were familiar, while others were more exotic (e.g., raw cow intestine).

As one of the more adventurous eaters, Brad tried, to no avail, to find the local delicacy of fried scorpion on a stick.

Final details about the program were ironed-out after several days of group and individual meetings between delegation members and representatives of ZISU.

One thing on which all of the delegates agreed was the fact that once students acclimate to the housing, food, language and cultural variations (loudly slurping of soup is encouraged,) the 'Experience China' program will have a life-changing impact on their lives.

According to Brad, "Most will gain a greater appreciation of life in the United States while also gaining a greater appreciation for the history and future of China.

"They will encounter a dynamic and diverse society and a population that is excited to show itself to the rest of the world.

"It is an amazing opportunity for our students; it's an amazing country."

As Wanita concluded, "This region of China is a very interesting place to visit. The residents are friendly to foreign visitors, especially those who speak English, and our students are in for a remarkable experience."

For more information on the Experience China program please visit

Jillian Dexheimer

Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.