Four Mechanical Engineering students—Nicole Cornelius, James McManus, Nick Rybak and Steven Ziebka—recently traveled to China to conduct senior design, while also exploring Chinese culture. They spent two months at the Henan University of Science and Technology (HUST). The group was led by Professor Keqin Gu, Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.
In a globalized world, it becomes increasingly common for engineers to work closely with their colleagues of different cultures; it is therefore highly desirable for us to educate engineering graduates with good understanding and appreciation of international culture. During the two months, the four SIUE students worked closely with Chinese faculty members, as well as graduate and undergraduate students in completing the required senior design classes. They learned similarities and differences of the two educational systems.
In addition, they had a chance to visit the remarkable Great Wall and Forbidden City, and view famous Terracotta Warriors. They also toured subsidiaries of U.S. companies such as Emerson Motors–China, and major Chinese manufacturer, and the Chinese Academy of Science. Daily interactions with Chinese students on a personal basis allowed our students to gain a deep understanding of Chinese culture and history. They ate lunches and dinners daily with the Chinese students, and played basketball frequently. They were invited to the home of a Chinese student, performed Karaoke together, tried out various exotic Chinese dishes, and were even chosen to perform kungfu on stage in the Shaolin Temple.
Our students also left a deep impression in HUST. They celebrated the Fourth of July, gave a presentation about American college life, all enjoying the experience tremendously. Through this experience, they were able to see the “real China.” Steven fondly recalled how they startled a street peddler by using Chinese to decline her solicitation, and bargained with merchants in purchasing souvenirs. Nicole remarked that “I wouldn’t have minded staying a couple of weeks longer if it were possible.” According to James, “the biggest accomplishments were all the experiences and memories we’ll retain for life.”