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The Great Trip to China
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The Great Trip to China

Seventeen adventurous Notre Dame travelers, including students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, set off from Cleveland on February 26 for the College’s first great trip to China. The 11-day journey took the group to Hong Kong, Guilin, Xi’an and Beijing, where travelers shared multiple once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The Great Wall in Beijing.Hong Kong was the group’s first destination. Travelers scaled the 1,810-foot high mountain Victoria Peak, visited an herbal medicine market and strolled the bay shore before testing their bargaining skills at the Stanley Market. The group also had an opportunity to visit the Taoist Wong Tai Sein Temple, where the faithful offer fruit and bundles of incense as signs of devotion. 

In Hong Kong the travelers boarded their first of three inter-China flights to Guilin, where the group took a cruise on the beautiful Lijiang River. As they floated down the shallow river, a spectacle unfolded in front of their eyes. Surrounded by breathtaking peaks that are the trademark of the region, fishermen secured their daily catch on bamboo rafts; an industrious man lashed his own raft to the tour boat to sell souvenirs, while local wildlife such as water buffaloes stalked the shoreline for their afternoon meal. The final stop in Guilin was Reed Flute Caves with its stunning stalactites and stalagmites. The caves, which are approximately 800 feet long, gave ample space as a bomb shelter for Guilin residents in World War II.

Xi’an was the next stop for the Notre Dame crew and certainly proved to be a major highlight on this Chinese adventure. Xi’an is home to the Terra Cotta Warriors, thousands of life-sized soldiers, chariots and horses created for Qin Shi Huangdi, who became the first Emperor of China in 221 B.C. Each warrior is distinct, no two have the same face, and the sight of more than 1,000 of them lined up “on guard” in the unearthed pit rendered the Notre Dame travelers speechless.

Xi’an also provided a fascinating cultural exchange between the American travelers and Chinese students and educators. The group was fortunate to visit a school, where they were greeted by an enormous banner over the front gate exclaiming, “Welcome Notre Dame College of Ohio”! The school boasts an enrollment of approximately 4,000 students, all of whom seemed extremely excited to see the visitors. After a greeting from the head of the school, the travelers visited two English classes. Each traveler was honored to sit down and talk with a small group of children. The Chinese students practiced their English, sharing details about their favorite classes, sports and hobbies, but also inquired about American daily life, Notre Dame College and LeBron James.

Meeting with students in Xi'anAfter the cross-cultural exchange with the Xi’an students, the travelers continued on to China’s capital, Beijing. The group toured the Olympic Village and saw the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest. It climbed the massive Great Wall and made an unscheduled stop at the Beijing Zoo to see the world famous panda bears. The day concluded with another memorable experience when the Americans were invited into a home in Beijing’s Hutong area for an authentic home-cooked meal. The matriarch of the family showed the women of the group how to make genuine Chinese dumplings, while the patriarch, who was a painter, graciously invited the group into his studio to see his work. 

The following day, the NDC group visited the Temple of Heaven, a Taoist temple used by the emperor once a year to pray for a good harvest. It was surrounded by a park where hundreds of senior citizens participated in all manner of games and activities. Hundreds of people waltzed in the gardens, fan danced in an open square, played cards, sang in the pavilions and matched up eligible sons and daughters in a corner of the expansive park. The afternoon was spent navigating the maze that is China’s Forbidden City, the imperial palace that for nearly five centuries no Chinese citizen was allowed to enter without the emperor’s permission.

Hong Kong light showWhile the list of cities and sites the group visited within a short 11-day period is certainly impressive, perhaps the most memorable aspect of the trip was that both literal and figurative doors were opened between the small group from Cleveland and countless Chinese. Group leader and long-time faculty member Roslyn Scheer-McLeod remarked, “We engaged with high school students at a school in Xi’an, danced with seniors at a park in Beijing, spoke with young Chinese tourists in Guilin, helped each other up the steps of the Great Wall and fully opened ourselves to this wonderful culture.”

Scheer-McLeod continues, “Our group interacted with the Chinese people on a profound level.  Many of our pre-conceived notions about ‘the other’ were dispelled. This trip is another wonderful example of how educational travel can change lives.”

Mary Elizabeth Cotleur ’98 is the Director of Alumni Relations and Associate Director of Advancement.

Travel with Us in 2010 and 2011!

Next year’s educational and cultural adventure will take you to the British Isles. You can bring British literature, history and culture to life as you visit the cities and lakes where famous writers lived and walked. The itinerary includes Dublin, Wales and the Lake District, Edinburgh, York, Stratford and London. 

Meet James Joyce in Dublin, Wordsworth and Coleridge in the Lake District, the Brontës in Yorkshire, Shakespeare in Stratford, and Dickens and Chaucer in London. Sr. Eileen Quinlan, SND, and Roslyn Scheer-McLeod will lead the adventure. 

In 2011, Notre Dame will voyage to the Holy Land, where travelers will be able to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and our Jewish ancestors. The price and exact itinerary is currently in development. Please visit the Notre Dame College Educational Travel website regularly for updated information.

For more information about the trip to the British Isles, including price and registration information, e-mail Roz Scheer-McLeod at rmcleod@ndc.edu.