University of Vermont

GIAC Reunion Provides Opportunity to Learn and Reminisce about China

GIAC students in China getting ready for a boat ride on Yangtze River

On a quiet Sunday morning, twenty-seven energetic high school students from across Vermont gathered in the Waterman Memorial Lounge to talk about China at the 15th annual Governor’s Institute on Asian Cultures reunion. The event provides an opportunity for participants of the 2011 overseas program and 2011 instate program to reunite and reminisce, share pictures and memories. More importantly, it’s was an opportunity for the overseas participants to give advice about traveling to China to the next group that will be traveling with the Governor’s Institute on Asian Cultures in China program.

The Governor’s Institute on Asian Cultures (GIAC) is a unique two-year program that provides Vermont teenagers to learn about Asia on campus at UVM in the first summer, and to travel to China in the second summer. During the two years, students learn about many aspects of Asian culture, including history, art, politics and more by experts on Asian culture.  The program also aims to instill in the students an appreciation about learning a foreign culture in a respectful and meaningful way, essentially to be travelers and not tourists.

Personal care was a big topic during the discussion. Pack light, wear sunscreen, and carry toilet paper were a few of the suggestions that the students shared. One student from the overseas program, Morgan, recalls how important it was to drink water during the overseas program, which takes place in China during the first two weeks in July. Since the program started in 1997, one of the program director, Jocelyn Fletcher Scheuch, stated that the temperatures at the Great Wall ranged from 90 degrees to 102 degrees.

Another topic was how to prepare for the food. GIAC program director showed a picture of one of the GIAC students biting into a cooked cricket while in China. Students agreed that bringing small snacks from hope, like packets of crackers and granola bars, helped them to feel better at the end of a day of adventurous eating. “It was amazing to think of how a spoonful of peanut butter and a packet of crackers would make me feel better two days into the trip.”

The GIAC staff and directors helped direct the conversation, but mainly let the students ask and respond the question. The director of the GIAC program, Brian Nelligan, commented that it was important for the next cohort of students traveling to China to hear advice from their peers. In the Lounge, it was evident that the next cohort of students were listening to every word and jotting down notes. By the end of the reunion, the room was still full of smiles and energy and thoughts about traveling to China.