June 8, 2012
WSI China Experience 2012—
Adds Nanjing to Diverse, Extensive Itinerary
By Mary Pat McNeil with Ann Baumann
This summer the Westonka Summer Institute, now in its fourth year, will make its third visit to China. The WSI China Experience lll promises to be the most diverse so far with students visiting four major cities in China.
Adding Nanjing to the itinerary: “We are excited to include Nanjing in our itinerary this year. Not only is it the location of the Five Start headquarters in China, it also is a location that gives another perspective of China that is different than the other cities we visit,” says WSI Lead Teacher Ann Baumann. “The students will get to visit the Nanjing Memorial Museum which will add another layer to their understanding of China and its relationships with other Asian Countries. Nanjing is one of the four ancient capitals of China and is a great complement to our visits to Shanghai, a very modern city with skyscrapers, Beijing, an ancient traditional city, and Xi’an with a Eastern influence and primarily Muslim population. Nanjing is a highly industrial city and is important to China for its production of exports all over the world and its massive workforce. It truly is unlike any of the other cities that we’ll be traveling to, yet probably the best representation of what “real China” is.
The Westonka Summer Institute is a credit-bearing, 13-day China immersion program. The half-credit course involves pre-departure coursework. Seminar classes will cover the global economy, Chinese history and culture, and perspectives on China’s role in the world market.
Training at Best Buy:
As part of their “homework” in preparation for the program, students take part in a pre-departure training at Best Buy that allows them to see the roots of the company and foundations that have carried over to their Asia operations. On May 25 the students worked with the Asia Employee Network at Best Buy to get the formal training that is given to all of their employees before leaving for China. This experience really gives our students better insight as to what to expect in China and what it's like to work internationally.
In China: The students will have an opportunity to explore the world’s oldest major civilization dating back 3,500 years. They will gain a broader world view and be invited to step outside their comfort zone and practice cross-cultural communication skills. They will experience total immersion in the Chinese culture through language, customs, family life, food, architecture, history, and commerce.
In addition to Nanjing: This year’s participants will spend 14 days in China visiting Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. Students will visit Xi’an—one of the greatest archaeological finds of the century with 2,000+ year-old Terracotta Warriors who were interred with the Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Other trip highlights are Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Great Wall—one of the ten wonders of the world, the Summer Palace—the largest and best-preserved imperial garden, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, the Beijing Zoo—to see the Giant Pandas, and Zhujiajiao—an ancient water town with a history of more than 1700 years.
Research Topic: Each WSI participant selects a research topic to prepare for their final presentation to Best Buy staff at the conclusion of their experience. Research topics were developed based on the needs expressed by Best Buy staff and their interests about the Chinese marketplace. The topics include:
- What are the different technologies/tools that are used to stay in touch or connected in China? How do those methods compare to the US?
- What are the different types of mass media/social media that are used in China? How does social networking use compare between generations in China.
- How is the Internet and social media used to promote business in different companies in China? How does the government interfere or help with this?
Twenty-first Century Skills: Through the WSI program students develop skills needed to compete in the 21st Century and get a jump start on success in the global workforce—working alongside some of Best Buy’s top managers who are responsible for the company’s success in the global marketplace. They will gain knowledge of non-Western European countries’ political and cultural histories, develop cross-cultural communication skills, and a good knowledge of geography along with fluency with e-commerce and the Internet.
What has changed in China since the last WSI Experience: “It'll be interesting to see what has changed since going to China in 2010. This is the first year that we are bringing students where there is not a major event going on in China. In 2008 China was sponsoring the Olympics and in 2010 the World Expo was hosted in Shanghai,” says Baumann. “I expect that we'll get a ‘more realistic’ version of China since they will not be preparing for so many visitors on such a large scale.”
Departure is set for June 12: This year’s participants Zach Altman, Paige Beyer, Allison Brady, Dan Brenk, Ryan Flesher, Jennifer Golden, Morton Greenslit, Jenna Hoogeveen, Rose Inglis, Tyler Jordahl, Joseph Leenay, Katie Linder, Kyle Luehman, Macy Miller, Tucker Poikonen, Ashley Rosenberg, Courtney Simonson, Molly Wollner, are accompanied by Lead WSI Teacher Ann Baumann, Business Teacher Mark Lee, and School Board Member Gary Wollner.
Upon return to the U.S. the course wrap-up includes the submission and presentation of the final project, a program evaluation, and multiple opportunities to share what they’ve learned with other students, community members, and representatives from Best Buy. They will be presenting at Best Buy Headquarters on August 1.
The program is funded by a combination of grants and student participation fees. Sponsors include NPC Robotics and Best Buy. Follow their travel blog @www.getjealous.com/2012wsichina
Photos by Ann Baumann