(SHANGHAI, China) — On June 17, 2019, a delirious group of St. Paul’s students stumbled off a 14-hour-flight, breezed through Chinese customs, and entered the bustling metropolis of Shanghai, population 26 million.
Students took on an online class called China and The World with Dr. Shawn Mullet, in which they studied the intersection of politics, economy, and culture in China. Some of these students then went to three Chinese cities with Dr. Mullet: Shanghai, Xi’an, and Beijing.
Shanghai is a pillar of concrete and innovation, the shining jewel of Chinese development. In the 1990’s it had little wealth. The city expanded explosively once China opened it up to capitalist investment. St. Paul’s students saw firsthand the level of capital interest that had infiltrated the once staunchly communist nation through the massive Nanjing Road, bustling as locals and tourists alike shuffled in and out of the countless brand stores. Students then visited the largest Starbucks in the world, a location they had been studying in the online course earlier in the year to analyze the nature of consumer spending and class identity in China.
Students visited a Chinese international school to meet with various Chinese students interested in going to U.S. colleges. They were then given a tour of the school and interacted in English with the Chinese students in order to explain cultural differences.
Xi’an, the ancient capital of China (a culture with 3000 plus years of civilization) was the next destination for St. Paul’s students. They experienced the convergence of old and new in the city. After a visit to the ancient Terracotta Warriors, students walked through the historical Muslim Bazaar, winding through the alleys and shops, greeted by the scents of meat and the shouts of vendors selling knockoff bags and cheap tourist goods.
The last city the students visited was the modern capital of China, Beijing. Students walked the Great Wall of China, visited Tiananmen Square, and toured the Forbidden City.
Senior Joseph Giberga said, “I learned a lot about how China’s culture and past drives its current growth. I was super impressed by how China has catapulted itself to the upper echelon of the international landscape in such a short time, and I enjoyed seeing for myself how they managed to accomplish it.”