The end is the beginning

China SST 2017 is now over, but the experience will live on for each of us.

In Beijing, between visiting the palaces and temples of dynasties and the Great Wall that protected them with varying degrees of success, we had a couple group meetings. On Sunday night we gathered to talk about learnings from service, apprehensions and points of excitement about going home, and ideas for how to process China SST in the coming weeks and months.

After visiting the Great Wall on Monday, we celebrated our final evening together with a meal of Peking Duck and other Beijing specialties. Then, over dessert back at the hotel, we met again. Gifts and words of appreciation were offered to Wang Ying, our wonderful local coordinator without whom our various excursions would not have been nearly as interesting or successful. She also helped the day to day management of the program in significant ways.

A small gift was then presented to each SSTer – a 2018 calendar with Chinese artwork and calligraphy, with each member’s birthday marked. Students had previously submitted descriptive words or phrases for their SST peers that were written in each person’s birthday month. Various awards, ranging from silly to serious, were also pronounced to each group member.

One way the end of China SST can create a new beginning is for us to be “China Watchers” the rest of our lives. One can’t spend three months immersed with Chinese hosts, language, culture and history without wanting to follow developments in this endlessly fascinating country with so much global influence. We hope our WeChat group will remain active sharing news and analysis about China as well as for ongoing processing of our time there.

As faculty leader it was my great privilege to read the stories, questions and wisdom gathered in the students’ journals throughout the semester. Journal writing centered around three types of prompts each week: reflective, integrative, and investigative. With permission from each student for the specific excerpts below, the official China SST 2017 blog closes with their words and images. Special thanks to Emily for some of the photos.

Dale, Greta, Naomi and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow in China among these beautiful souls.