China & the Bryant-Zhuhai IDEA Program

2018-03-06T00:29:29-04:00 June 1st, 2016|

Over the course of two weeks in January 2016, I had the opportunity to experience four unique Chinese cities through the Sophomore International Experience (SIE) program at Bryant University.

The purpose of the program was to earn credit for school while experiencing Chinese culture first-hand through the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Zhuhai, and Yangshuo, China.

During the trip, I had the honor of participating in the inaugural Bryant-Zhuhai IDEA program—which stands for “Innovation & Design Experience for All”—as a student mentor for the Bryant-Zhuhai undergraduates.

To prepare for the trip, my 23 classmates and I took classes three times per month throughout the fall semester.

These classes informed us on how to prepare for the trip, as well as provided lessons on Chinese history. Issues that plague China today—including pollution, climate change, and overpopulation—were also discussed.

When we finally departed for China on January 4th, 2016, we were all prepared and excited.

The trip itinerary included four very different Chinese locations: Beijing, the capital and cultural hub of China; Zhuhai, China’s “most livable city” and premier tourist destination; Yangshuo, a resort town surrounded by mountains and Chinese villages; and Shanghai, China’s largest city and a global business center.

Yangshuo, China mountain climbing during Bryant University's SIE China program. Alex Reardon

Mountain climbing in Yangshuo, China.

The Bryant-Zhuhai IDEA Program

One of the main highlights of our trip was the three days we spent in Zhuhai at Bryant’s sister campus for the very first IDEA program to be held in the People’s Republic of China. Bryant University’s Innovation and Design Experience for All introduces its participants to the design thinking process and provides them with a real-world situation in which to apply them.

Mashmallow challenge at the Bryant University IDEA program in Zhuhai, China.

Team-building exercises to kick-off the IDEA program.

I completed the program at Bryant University in January 2015, and served as a student mentor to the freshman class at Bryant-Zhuhai. My role included presenting the concepts of innovation and design thinking to students, giving a presentation to a class of thirty about brainstorming, and instructing students making observations “out in the field.”

My class, consisting of thirty freshman students, was assigned the project of making the Bryant-Zhuhai campus more open and friendly for English-speaking visitors—specifically, for tourists and students. I was proud and impressed when the students immediately went beyond the obvious solution of hanging up more English road signs and started to brainstorm more complex and innovative solutions to the challenge.

Marshmallow Challenge Runner-Ups at the Bryant-Zhuhai inaugural IDEA Program.

Runner-Ups of the Marshmallow Challenge at Bryant-Zhuhai IDEA Program 2016.

Ultimately, their final deliverable was presented to me and my fellow class mentors; it was a scaled model of what the students called “America Away from Home,” a section of their campus they would devote to American restaurants, a movie theater that plays American movies, road signs almost exclusively in English, and fields for American sports such as football and baseball. They explained that these things could help people that miss being home feel at home again. I was very proud of the hard work the students accomplished in a short period of time; not to mention the entire program being taught completely in English, a second language to all of them. The students learning and applying the design-thinking process, and congratulated them on their hard work.

At the end of the program’s three days, I was left with a rewarding and enriching experience I won’t ever forget. I was able to build relationships with the freshman students (and inaugural class!) of Bryant-Zhuhai University and had the pleasure of teaching and guiding them throughout the program.

The relationships I formed as a student mentor in China were sincere and will indeed stay with me for a long time. I remain in contact with many of them on the popular Chinese social media app WeChat and I look forward to seeing many of them when they visit Bryant University in Smithfield during August of 2016.