Exploring the World, 11 countries in 6 months

Senior Katie Holland has returned for her last semester at Roanoke after traveling the world. Yet, while Katie is back in the United States, she explains that she is only here to visit. Upon graduating, Katie hopes to return to China to refine her Mandarin skills, and eventually attend graduate school to further her education in international affairs. Her travel experience has only sparked a greater interest to explore more of the world.

Katie H 2But this is not Katie’s first adventure abroad.  Prior to traveling and studying abroad in China, Katie has had the opportunity to travel to 11 different countries. She spent a semester studying in Rennes, France, and she then participated in a May term travel course to Israel. Yet, all of this would not have been possible without the support and advice of Scott Couchman and the International Education Office.

 Last semester, Katie studied abroad in Hangzhou, China, through Valparaiso University. She attended Zhejiang University, where she took classes in Chinese for four months. While in China, Katie specifically studied Mandarin. Each morning she attend three hours of classes and in the afternoon would work as an ESL teacher for both children and adults. Katie H 5In the evenings, she took two classes that focused on Chinese culture, politics and bilateral relations with the United States. It was through her politics class that she completed a research project comparing campus-recycling programs in the United States and Chinese universities.

Despite her demanding academic schedule, Katie has plenty of opportunities to travel, both with the Valparaiso program and on her own. Katie believes that travel enhances our understanding of the world.

When I asked Katie how the Chinese university system was both similar and different to the United States she said:

Since I did not attend a Chinese University for regular classes, and only took language courses, I do not feel I can accurately provide a comparison between the Chinese and U.S. University systems. However, I noticed significant differences in teaching styles between my Chinese professors and my professors at Roanoke College. In China, it is extremely difficult to do well on exams. In fact, it is assumed that most students will do poorly, because the subject material is difficult. The Chinese study hard, and they study a lot. Katie H 3There is a lot of emphasis on memorization, and limited emphasis on critical thinking.

Katie would not have succeeded in China without her background in the public affairs department. Her background in research through her research methods class aided her in collecting data from both Chinese and American university students. She was then able to use the data to produce qualitative information and make recommendations to improve recycling programs in China.

Now that she is back at Roanoke, Katie says that her experience in China will definitely be applicable to her public affairs major. Katie shares that China is a great discussion point for many of her classes. She also shares, “My experience in China has, nevertheless, given focus to my international studies, as I have found I am quite passionate about U.S.-China relations, and I hope to continue studying these bilateral relations into graduate school”.Katie H 4