Seek the Legends of China

UC Irvine is now receiving applications for the “Silk Road to the Future”, a low-cost, short-term summer emersion and cultural exchange program that is hosted by the non-governmental foundation, Legends of China.

The program includes a variety of trips anywhere from eight to 14 days and offers sightseeing and lessons in the Chinese language, among other activities.

One of the most popular of  these trips, Trip B, costs $1,886, including airfare, hotel rooms, three meals, transportation, travel insurance, guides, educational exchange programs/events and historical site tours on the itinerary.

Students on Trip B visit historic locations such as the Capital of China in Beijing, Oriental Paris in Shanghai, the Oriental Ancient Gardens in Suzhou, and Oriental Temples and the Poetic West Lake in Hangzhou.

“If you’ve never been to the Great Wall, you get an opportunity to do that on whatever trip you take and every single person is just floored by the experience,” said Kevin M. Huie, director of the Cross-Cultural Center.

Having gone on several of these trips himself, Huie explained how the trip is usually split into two parts. On the one hand, students may feel more like tourists as they visit many different sites.

However, the other part of the trip makes them feel more like students, as they visit college campuses and listen to lectures given by students and faculty from all over the United States and China.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about China being a communist country and so they must be extremely different,” he said.

Despite the obvious differences, Huie stresses that there remains much that individuals of different backgrounds can learn from each other.

“They have similar experiences,” he said. “They are people who you can relate to.”

In previous years, the lectures given during this program have addressed a variety of topics.

One year the theme was the environmental concerns and issues in China and how to deal with them from a business, educational and civic point of view.

Another year, the theme addressed the similarities and differences between eastern and western medicine. The theme for his coming July is Internationalism and World Peace.

“The lectures and interactions were great,” said Wendy Guzman-Rangel, a fourth-year double major in criminology, law and society and Chicano/Latino studies.

“I mean I liked it because I wasn’t in a study mode. I just got to go and experience it as a tourist but I was still getting information, I was still acquiring knowledge through the lectures.”

Having gone on the Legends of China trip in the summer of 2010,  Guzman-Rangel emphasized that this program differs from studying abroad.

Realizing that many students cannot afford the high costs of study abroad programs, or the time to spend a quarter or semester away, Legends of China offers a unique chance for students to experience a low-cost, short-term cultural emersion, where students can learn about another culture.

“You can see it sometimes subtly and sometimes a little bit more overtly — differences in how the government runs, in how people treat one another. You can tell the differences within communications through language inflections,” Huie said.

“When people talk to you they stand very close to you.”

Additionally, this experience is not limited to UCI students alone. It is also open to faculty, staff and alumni.

In fact, participants of the program are encouraged to bring along friends and family members to the program.

In this way, the Legends of China foundation really opens the doors for practically anyone to visit China and become an ambassador of peace.

“I didn’t need to necessarily know the language to be able to go to China and experience their culture and experience their tradition,” said Wendy Guzman-Rangel.

In the way the program is set up, students are guided through their experience in China through special tours and trips to different locations and seminars and lectures to help them better understand the Chinese culture.

Participants are even given a Chinese guide to help and instruct them throughout the trip.

UCI has been participating in the Legends of China program for up to 11 years now, in which 85 to 90 people have attended the cultural emersion and become ambassadors of peace.

To find out more about the program, there will be information sessions held in January and February. The application deadline for anyone who wishes to attend is March 31.

“The first time I didn’t know what to expect,” Huie said. “The point of doing cultural emersions is going with that experience of not really knowing and seeing how you manage and figure it out.”