I had the opportunity to travel to China, along with fellow Krannert School of Physical Therapy faculty member, Dr. Julie Gahimer, and School of Occupational Therapy faculty member, Dr. Candy Beitman. The official purpose of our trip was to attend and participate in the 4th International Symposium on Service Learning (ISSL); however, we were able to do some site-seeing along the way, visiting Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.
In my mind, one of the most amazing sites was the terra cotta warriors of Xian. These warriors, along with horses and chariots, were built during the 3rd century BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China in order to protect him in the afterlife. First unearthed in 1974, these more than 8,000 warriors are part of the largest active archeological site in the world. The army of warriors consists of various military ranks such as generals and archers. Although the bodies of each rank are shaped the same, each of the warriors has unique facial characteristics. Imagining the time and resources that were part of their construction at that point in history was mind-boggling. As these warriors are being unearthed, they are rarely found intact, leaving the archeologists with a rather daunting, jigsaw puzzle!
The city of Shanghai, the largest city in the world, was also intriguing. Shanghai was our shopping day, allowing us to explore two distinctly different settings. We started with shopping in the “old city,” with narrow streets, laundry hanging from above-the-store apartments, and open air markets. From there we traveled to the metropolitan area of Nanjing Road, the world’s busiest shopping streets. This area, known for its high fashion and upscale shops, provided us with a NikeTown Shanghai and a much needed trip to a Hershey’s store. The day finished with a riverboat tour, with the opportunity to view the colorful Shanghai nighttime skyline.
The ISSL was hosted by the Ningbo Institute of Technology, a sister university to UIndy. Although a highly interdisciplinary conference, there were physical therapists there from Wheeling Jesuit University and South Africa. Students who were majoring in English at NIT served as volunteers to help us find our way around. Many of these students will travel to UIndy to finish their English degree, so were full of questions about life here in Indianapolis!
Although we saw some amazing sites, it was the smaller cultural experiences that I believe will be the most memorable. We were faced with new kinds of foods, drinks, and toilets (yes, I said toilets!) at every turn! I became quite skilled with chopsticks and am proud to say I tried duck, un-boned fish, and many unknown vegetables (Julie won the prize though with the crocodile intestines!) However, despite these different experiences, in many ways it was the ‘sameness’ that struck me the most. Watching a mother interact with her child, seeing school children on a field trip, and tracking an older adult trying to cross the street, really emphasized to me how much we all share.
-Stephanie Kelly, PT, PhD
Dean, College of Health Sciences
University of Indianapolis